How Balanced Are Dietary Guidelines? New Study Takes a Look

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A new study finds a number of countries are failing to provide adequate dietary guidelines about the benefits of a plant-based diet for human health and the health of the planet.

According to recent findings published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Developments in Nutrition, nearly half of the world’s countries are not providing dietary information on the benefits of eating plant-based. Forty percent of the 95 guidelines assessed from 100 countries contained information and recommendations on vegetarian and vegan diets, and 45 percent mention plant-based alternatives to conventional animal products such as meat and milk.

The study authors created a Balanced Food Choice Index, which sees The Netherlands in the top position for recommending the most balanced dietary guidelines. Australia, Switzerland, Qatar, and New Zealand round out the top five. China and Hong Kong ranked 7th and the U.S. ranked 8th.

Proper dietary information lacking

But the study authors say they were hard-pressed to find substantial information from most of the countries; out of 100 possible points, the average score was 33.58—mainly a result of lacking data.

The Index’s aim is to measure whether or not existing dietary guidelines are encouraging sustainable and healthy food choices.

Courtesy Canva

The findings are being presented during COP27 happening in Egypt through November 18th.

“We hope that our findings will give Governments a global overview of what dietary information countries should provide to their citizens because these guidelines have not only a health impact but have environmental and social dimensions too,” lead study author Anna-Lena Klapp said.

“With COP27 upon us, this study will provide governments with a useful reference point. They can see at a glance which countries they should be aspiring to follow. Also, it provides food for thought for those countries that do not yet have a dietary guideline but are thinking about producing one,” Klapp said.

European guidelines falling flat

Other research published this week by Anna Bach Faig, a FoodLab group researcher and member of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), finds only 20 percent of European food-based dietary guidelines incorporate food sustainability.

Photo by Abhishek Sanwa Limbu on Unsplash

“It is necessary to update existing guidelines, or create and implement new ones,” Faig said.

“There’s broad scientific consensus around the dietary patterns Europeans should adopt to improve their health and sustainability: specifically, there’s a need to increase our intake of vegetable-based foods (fruit, vegetables, whole cereals, pulses, nuts and seeds) and cut our consumption of red meat – both processed and unprocessed – and ultra-processed foods high in salt, fat and/or sugar,” she added.

“What we put on our plates is so important. For health reasons, and environmental ones, too, we simply can’t continue with the current production and consumption model.”

Lead image courtesy Pexels.


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