"The food we eat and the way we produce it will determine the health of people and planet, and major changes must be made to avoid both reduced life expectancy and continued environmental degradation."
-The EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems
Our food choices have perhaps the greatest impact on the environment out of any of our individual daily choices. It's impossible to separate the two, but we have a ton of control. In this week's episode, I discuss a recent landmark report from the journal The Lancet titled "Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT- Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems." This interdisciplinary team of researchers make the case for developing a reference diet that simultaneously meets the nutritional needs of a global population, and meets climate and environmental sustainability goals. Link to download the full paper here.
I dive into the main points of the article, including takeaways from the Executive Summary and the 4 primary sections:
#1 is made up of a discussion of what comprises a healthy diet for a global population.
#2 focuses on shifting towards a global sustainable food system, and how current food production impacts the environment.
#3 is putting the first two together to find a happy balance between a healthful diet and one that has as little negative impact on the planet as possible, AKA a win-win diet.
#4 is a push to develop a framework for a Great Food Transformation, highlighting the "need for a substantial change in the structure and function of the global food system so that it operates with different core processes and feedback."
Some key takeaways:
Unhealthy diets pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than does unsafe sex, and alcohol, drug, and tobacco use combined.
Strong evidence suggests that food production is among the largest drivers of global climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater use, interference with phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, and land-system change.
Dietary changes from current diets to healthy diets are likely to substantially benefit human health, averting about 10.8 million-11.6 million deaths per year.
With a high level of certainty based on the scope of the evidence, diets that source protein primarily from plants (including soy and other legumes, nuts and seeds), fish or alternative sources of omega-3s, with optional or modest intake of eggs and poultry, and low to no intake of red and processed meat, fat mostly from unsaturated plant foods, carbohydrates mainly from whole grains, at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and moderate dairy consumption meet the needs for a global reference diet, promote low risk of major chronic disease and overall well being.
Overall, studies concur that plant-based foods cause fewer adverse environmental effects per unit weight, per serving, per unit of energy, or per protein weight than does animal source food across various environmental indicators.
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