Nina Avramova, CNN
An international team of scientists has developed a diet that can improve health while at the same time ensuring sustainable food production to further reduce the damage to the planet.
The "planetary health diet" is based on cutting red meat and sugar consumption by half and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
And it can prevent up to 11.6 million premature deaths without damaging the planet, according to the report published Wednesday in the medical journal The Lancet.
The authors warn that a global shift in diet and food production is needed as 3 billion people worldwide are malnourished – including those below and over-nourished – and food production is surpassing environmental targets, boosting climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution.
The world population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050; This growth, in addition to our current eating habits and food production, "will exacerbate the risks to people and the planet," according to the authors.
"The stakes are very high," said Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, about the findings of the report, noting that 1 billion people live in starvation and 2 billion people eat a lot of the wrong foods.
Horton believes that "nutrition has not yet achieved the kind of political attention that is given to diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria."
"Using the best available evidence" from controlled feeding trials, randomized studies and large cohort studies, the authors presented a new recommendation, explained Dr. Walter Willett, lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan public health school.
The report suggests five strategies to ensure that people can change their diets and not harm the planet: by encouraging people to eat healthier, shifting global production to varied crops, stepping up agriculture in a sustainable way, stricter rules on government of the oceans and lands and reducing food waste.
The "planetary health diet"
To enable a healthy global population, the team of scientists has created a global reference diet, which they call the "planetary health diet," which is an ideal daily meal plan for people over 2 years old who believe they help reduce chronic diseases. such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as environmental degradation.
The diet breaks down the ideal daily intake of whole grains, vegetables rich in starch, fruits, dairy, protein, fats and sugars, representing a total daily calorie intake of 2,500.
They recognize the difficulty of the task, which will require "substantial" food changes at the global level, requiring that food consumption, such as red meat and sugar, decrease by more than 50%. In turn, consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and vegetables is expected to increase more than twice, the report says.
The diet counsels people to consume 2,500 calories a day, which is a bit more than people are eating today, Willett said. People should eat a "variety of herbal foods, low amounts of animal foods, unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats and few refined grains, highly processed foods and added sugars," he said.
Regional differences are also important to note. For example, North American countries eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while South Asian countries eat 1.5 times the required amount of starchy vegetables.
"Almost all regions of the world are substantially exceeding recommended levels of red meat," Willett said.
The health and environmental benefits of such food changes are known, "but so far the challenge of achieving healthy diets from a sustainable food system has been hampered by the lack of science-based guidelines," said Howard Frumkin, head of the UK biomedical industry. charity search The Our Planet Our Health program from The Wellcome Trust. The Wellcome Trust funded the research.
"It provides governments, producers and individuals with an evidence-based starting point to work together to transform our food systems and cultures," he said.
If the new diet were adopted globally, 10.9 to 11.6 million premature deaths could be avoided each year – equivalent to 19% to 23.6% of adult deaths. A reduction in sodium and an increase in whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits contributed more to the prevention of deaths, according to one of the report's models.
Making it happen
Some scientists are skeptical about whether changing the global population for this diet can be achieved.
The recommended diet "is a shock" in terms of how viable and how it should be implemented, said Alan Dangour, a professor of food and nutrition for global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. What "makes implementation immediately difficult" is the fact that government departments need to work together, he said. Dangour was not involved in the report.
At the current level of food production, the reference diet is not feasible, said Modi Mwatsama, chief of senior science (food systems, nutrition and health) at the Wellcome Trust. Some countries are not able to grow enough food because they could be, for example, deprived of resistant crops, while in other countries, unhealthy foods are heavily promoted, she said.
Mwatsama added that unless there are structural changes, such as subsidies that deviate from meat production and environmental changes, such as limits on how much fertilizer can be used, "we will not see people meeting that goal."
To allow populations to follow the reference diet, the report suggests five strategies, of which subsidies are an option. These fit under a recommendation to ensure good governance of land and ocean systems, for example by prohibiting deforestation and removing subsidies for world fisheries, as they lead to the over capacity of the global fishing fleet.
Secondly, the report also outlines strategies such as encouraging farmers to move food production from large quantities of some crops to diversified production of nutritious crops.
Healthy food should also be more affordable, for example, low-income groups should receive help with social protections to avoid continued malnutrition, the authors suggest, and people encouraged to feed themselves in a healthy way through information campaigns .
A fourth strategy suggests that when agriculture is intensified, it must take local conditions into account to ensure the best agricultural practices for a region, producing the best harvests.
Finally, the team suggests reducing food waste by improving crop planning and market access in low- and middle-income countries, while improving consumer buying habits in high-income countries.
Louise Manning, a professor of agri-food resilience and the supply chain at Royal Agricultural University, said meeting the goal of reducing food waste is a "very difficult thing to achieve" because it would require government, communities and families to unite.
However, "this can be done," said Manning, who was not involved in the report, noting the reversal of plastic use in countries such as the UK.
The health of the planet
The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement aimed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Achieving this goal is no longer just to decode energy systems by reducing fossil fuels but also a food transition, said Johan Rockström, a professor of environmental science at the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University in Sweden, who co-led the project . study.
"This is urgent," he said. Without a global adaptation of the diet of reference, the world "will not succeed with the Paris Climate Agreement".
A sustainable food production system requires that emissions of non-greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, be limited, but methane is produced during the digestion of livestock, while nitrous oxides are released from agricultural land and pasture . But the authors believe such emissions are inevitable to provide healthy food for 10 billion people. They point out that the decarbonisation of the world's energy system must progress faster than expected to accommodate this.
Overall, ensuring a healthy population and planet requires a combination of all strategies, the report concludes – major changes in diet, improved food production and technological change, and reduced food waste.
"Designing and operationalizing sustainable food systems that can provide healthy diets for a growing and richer world population poses a formidable challenge. Nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution, "Rockström said, adding that" the solutions exist.
"It's about behavioral change. It's about technologies. It's about politics. It's about regulations. But we know how to do it.
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