Cut Meat, Shift to Plant-Based Diet to Save the Planet: Lancet

The Planetary Health diet recommends doubling the average global consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables & legumes. 

Updated19 Jan 2019, 11:47 AM IST
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3 min read

Your grandparents were right all along. Our good old daal sabzi is indeed the best kind of diet, announced a major study.

Scientists have proposed a global solution to feed healthy, sustainable diet to 10 billion people by 2050, as per a new report published in the medical journal The Lancet. They have developed a diet that can improve health while ensuring this sustainable solution.

It’s based on cutting red meat and sugar consumption in half and upping intake of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

The EAT-Lancet Commission, which undertook the study, has recommended the ‘Planetary Health diet’ which can help balance human and planetary health.

The Commission is a 3-year project that brings together 37 experts from 16 countries with expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, economics and political governance.

The ‘Reference Diet’

The report quantitatively describes a universal healthy ‘reference diet’. This is to provide a basis for estimating the health and environmental effects of adopting an alternative diet to standard current diets, many of which are high in unhealthy foods.

Current Food Shortage in the World

Cut Meat, Shift to Plant-Based Diet to Save the Planet: Lancet
(Photo: Arnica Kala/ FIT)

The report states that currently 820 million people have insufficient food and consume an unhealthy diet. A population growth of 10 billion people by 2050 will aggravate the food situation worldwide.

As per the scientists, the Planetary Health diet ‘addresses the global burden of disease linked to poor diets including obesity, undernutrition, and malnutrition’.

Speaking about the current food shortage in the world, co-lead Commissioner, Dr Walter Willett, Harvard University, USA, said:

To be healthy, diets must have an appropriate calorie intake and consist of a variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars. The food group intake ranges that we suggest allow flexibility to accommodate various food types, agricultural systems, cultural traditions, and individual dietary preferences – including numerous omnivore, vegetarian, and vegan diets.
Dr Walter Willett

How To Achieve Substantial Dietary Shifts?

Cut Meat, Shift to Plant-Based Diet to Save the Planet: Lancet
(Photo: Arnica Kala/ FIT)

The EAT-Lancet Commission has suggested some important scientific steps to achieve substantial dietary shifts worldwide:

  • Create policies to encourage people to choose healthy diets
  • Focus on strategies to produce varied nutrient-rich crops
  • Ensure effective governance of land and ocean use to preserve natural ecosystems and ensure continued food supplies
  • Reduce food waste by at least 50%
  • Invest in improved technology and education for farmers

Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-chief at The Lancet, said:

The transformation that the Commission calls for is not superficial or simple, and requires a focus on complex systems, incentives, and regulations, with communities and governments at multiple levels having a part to play in redefining how we eat. 
Dr Richard Horton

Impact of the Planetary diet

Cut Meat, Shift to Plant-Based Diet to Save the Planet: Lancet
(Photo: Arnica Kala/ FIT)

The report states that ‘unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill-health worldwide’ and following the Planetary diet could avoid ‘approximately 11 million premature deaths per year’ due to malnourishment.

The diet would also improve nutrition globally and cut the greenhouse gas emissions to ‘levels compatible with the Paris Agreement on climate change’ and also reduce loss of biodiversity and limit ‘agriculture’s demand for land, water and nitrogen’.

The EAT-Lancet Commission is one of several reports on nutrition being published by The Lancet in 2019.

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Published: 17 Jan 2019, 03:11 AM IST

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