You might have seen in the news or published in the Lancet this week, a report from the EAT-Lancet Commission, revealing the ‘planetary health diet’.
This was no mean feat to produce. It involved 37 scientists of numerous specialities from 16 countries in a coordinated effort to develop proposals which meet planetary and human needs.
In this blog I’m going to take what I think are some key messages from this report and distil it down for you. Personally, I think it’s an honourable achievement and so valuable for raising awareness of the issues which face us, sustainable living and healthy diets.
To provide healthy diets in a sustainable manner to the ever-growing global population is an epic challenge.
Their overarching conclusion was:
“a diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”
Currently over 800 million people have insufficient food and many more eating large quantities of food with poor nutritional value. These unhealthy diets cause more ill health and death than alcohol and drug use, smoking and unsafe sex combined.
On a planetary health perspective, our current food production systems threaten the sustainability of our climate and decimate ecosystems, threatening their resilience to thrive.
The proposed diet looks like:
This is a flexitaran diet, as you can see, small amounts of animal produce are ‘allowed’ but not to the extent many of Western society consume today.
The authors acknowledge this is no small task and that transformation to this way of eating will require “substantial shifts” for many:
“more than doubling in the consumption of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and a greater than 50% reduction in global consumption of less healthy foods such as added sugars and red meat.”
In reality, this means wealthier countries reducing excessive consumption of animal products. In less developed nations there are significant challenges of malnutrition from lack of calorific intake. The authors of the report acknowledge these recommendations needs to be taken into context of local realities.
These proposed changes are likely to have significant health benefits to those who adopt them (if not already following the principles presented in the report). It is estimated that 11 million deaths per year could be prevented.
Benefits to our planet will be just as significant. Currently food production is the largest culprit of environmental degradation and without fundamental changes being made UN sustainable development goals and the Paris Agreement will be failed to be met. Such radical changes necessitate global commitment in shifting towards healthier diets, as proposed in this report, and innovative restructuring of the global food production system.
3 key changes are:
- Shift towards a plant-based diet.
- Significant reduction of food waste
- Improvements in food production systems.
With this guidance it is proposed that feeding the 10 billion people estimated to be living on our planet in 2050 in a sustainable manner will be achievable.
This commissioned report brings together two of my passions, lifestyle medicine and planetary health/stewardship. I fully support it. I acknowledge it will be a big adjustment for many, but for the sake of our planet, I endorse you to start making changes today.
To view the report summary in English (also source for images used in this article) click here.