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Scientists have designed a new “planetary health diet” to tackle health related issues, global hunger and environmental problems caused by the current food system. This new diet is primarily plant-based, and involves cutting out large amounts of red meat alongside other changes.
As the world’s population continues to grow, the significant role livestock farming plays in driving environmental degradation, pollution and climate change can no longer be ignored. Guidelines drawn up by the EAT-Lancet Commission seeks to address this by calling for a 50% reduction in red meat and sugar consumption alongside a doubling of vegetables, fruits, pulses and nuts in our diets. Though this 2,500-calorie diet still allows for minimal amounts of animal protein, eggs and dairy, meals should be primarily plant-based.
This could mean that the type of change necessary will be different by region. For North Americans and Europeans, reduction in red meat consumption will be the most radical change set out by the planetary health diet. In East Asia, the focus is placed on cutting down fish and poultry consumption.
One of the leaders speaking at the Eat Forum NGO, Walter Willett, remarked, “the world’s diets must change dramatically.” The planetary health diet could pave the way towards achieving the necessary target of halving current food wastage levels to 15%, according to a report led by Willett and other members of the Lancet commission.
Editors at the Lancet also echoed the urgent nature of the world’s current situation, and the need to adopt this plant-focused diet as a solution. In an editorial, Richard Horton and Tamara Lucas emphasise that it is no longer possible to balance planetary resources and feed the growing global population a nutritious diet if these changes are not adopted.
While the planetary health diet aims to tackle issues of sustainability, food wastage and promote a more environmentally sound global food system, it will also address issues related to health and wellbeing. On the one hand, this plant-focused diet will reduce worldwide hunger and associated illnesses such as malnutrition. On the other hand, it will also promote healthier eating habits and tackle diseases connected to obesity and poor lifestyle choices.
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