Written By Dawson | Health Scientist | Optimeal Founder
New results from the EAT-Lancet Commission (a three-year project bringing together 37 professionals from 16 nations with expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, economics and political governance) provide new goals for a healthy diet from a sustainable food production system operating within planetary limits. The study recommends diets that consist of a wide variety of plant-based foods, and reduced amounts of: animal-based foods, refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars.
Human diets are inextricably linked to environmental sustainability, and have the potential to nurture both. Modern diets and food production methods, however, push the Earth beyond its limits while contributing to the global health epidemic. This threatens us and our planet. Providing healthy diets from sustainable food systems is an urgent challenge as the population continues to expand— expected to reach 10 billion by 2050.
Dietary changes must be combined with improved food production and reduced food waste to overcome this challenge. The researchers emphasize the need for unprecedented worldwide coordination and commitment, as well as immediate improvements such as refocusing agriculture to create diverse plants rich in nutrients, and improved land and water management.
“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,”
-EAT Commision Author, Professor Tim Lang
The researchers argue that the lack of scientific targets for a healthy diet have hindered efforts to transform the food system. Based on the best available evidence, the Commission proposes a dietary pattern that meets nutritional requirements, promotes health, and allows the world to stay within planetary boundaries.
Compared with current diets, global adoption of the new recommendations by 2050 will require global consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by more than 50%, while consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes must increase more than two-fold.
“The world’s diets must change dramatically. More than 800 million people have insufficient food, while many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and disease,”
-Co-lead Commissioner, Dr Walter Willett, Harvard University, USA.
It isn’t just our diets that need to change, according to a landmark scientific assessment commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Industrial agriculture accounts for over 30% of all carbon emissions as well as 38% of the world’s total land area and 70% of global freshwater consumption.
Today, the majority of the American midwest is dominated by industrial agriculture—the system of resource intensive food production developed over a century ago, utilizing enormous single-crop farms and animal production facilities.
At its inception, industrial agriculture was hailed as a technological triumph that would enable a skyrocketing world population to feed itself. Today, a growing chorus of agricultural experts—including farmers as well as scientists and policymakers—view industrial agriculture as a dead end, a failed test to see how far industrialists could push the environment, public health, and rural communities before they would push back, an unsustainable food system that requires urgent reform.