Published: Wed, January 23, 2019
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Human diet is causing 'catastrophic' damage to the planet

Human diet is causing 'catastrophic' damage to the planet

To be published online on Thursday, Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets for Sustainable Food Systems also links nutritional targets with environmental sustainability.

The strategy also discusses humanity's responsibility to have strong and co-ordinated governance of land and oceans by implementing a zero-expansion policy of new agricultural land into natural ecosystems and species-rich forests, and underlines the importance of halving food losses and waste in line with UN Sustainable Development goals.

"We are in a catastrophic situation", co-author Tim Lang, a professor at the University of London and policy lead for the EAT-Lancet Commission that compiled the 50-page study, told AFP.

"We can include millets and also ensure that there is no imbalance in the consumption of fruits and vegetables".

Chicken consumption would have to fall to 29g a day, while dairy consumption would stop at a single glass of milk, 250ml, or even less, it said, if you have butter or cheese. The scientific targets set out by the commission recommend the increased consumption of plant-based foods, including fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains, while limiting animal-source foods.

Ultimately the new diet could globally prevent up to 11.6 million premature deaths per year, according to its creators. People should eat 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", he said. "They an important nutritional part of a healthy, balanced diet", he said.

For three years, 37 experts from 16 countries have been working on the report released onWednesday.

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"We've also seen in the USA that red meat consumption has come down 40% since it peaked in 1970, which is a big change". Dairy foods should be about a serving a day, or less.

To meet this challenge, dietary changes must be combined with improved food production and reduced food waste.

He said those who ate the Mediterranean diet, commonly viewed as among the world's healthiest, saw red meat as something for special occasions.

More specifically, fish, legumes, whole grains, fruit, and veggies, and nuts all made the researchers' list of go-to foods.

Alan Dangour, Professor in Food and Nutrition for Global Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Many of the important policy recommendations in the Commission cut across the portfolios of traditional government departments, such as agriculture and environment, health, trade, worldwide development in the United Kingdom, and will be challenging to implement in many countries". It suggested that these new diets be in place by 2050 and that it might need to be applied locally, citing the example of countries in North America that eat nearly 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while countries in South Asia eat only half the recommended amount. The average British adult eats about 62g.

"Meeting the nutritional needs of a growing United Kingdom population from plant-based proteins would likely rely much more heavily on imported food, which may be produced to lower environmental standards".

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