Around 4,000 lives could be saved each year by cutting rates of cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer linked to poor diet, UK researchers believed.
They blamed the deaths on diets high in saturated fat and salt and low in fibre, fruit and vegetables.
The team led by Dr Peter Scarborough at the University of Oxford used data from a diet survey to estimate average intake of 10 key dietary components, such as fibre, salt and fat.
Results showed people in Scotland and Northern Ireland ate consistently more saturated fat and salt and fewer fruits and vegetables every day than people in England.
Authors calculated that over three years, just under 22,000 more people died in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland from cardiovascular disease and diet-related cancers than would be expected if mortality rates were as low as in England.
The model showed Scotland experienced 6,000 preventable deaths, accounting for 40% of the mortality rate between the country and England.
Researchers calculated that 11,000 deaths could have been avoided over three years.
They concluded: ‘Diet has a substantial impact on geographical variations in mortality from coronary heart disease, stroke and various cancers within the UK.’
Researchers suggested that ‘fat taxes’ might only work if they are paired with subsidies for fruit and vegetables.