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Scientific Updates /

Eat Lancet’s Planetary Health Diets: Plant-based food as part of the solution

17 January 2017

The Alpro Foundation welcomes the EAT-Lancet report and its cutting-edge recommendations for a dietary pattern which supports human and planetary health.

The EAT Lancet Commission is co-chaired by Walter Willet and Johan Rockström and includes over 30 scientists. Their exhaustive review of the evidence has resulted in the EAT Lancet dietary plan which is predominantly based on high quality plant-based foods with less reliance on (but not omission of) meat and moderate dairy food intakes as most conducive to optimum health and environmental sustainability.

To achieve this, the report proposes changes in farming and food production processes, how healthier and more sustainable foods are marketed, priced and made more available and the importance of reducing food waste. The recommendations provide significant flexibility to allow for customisation to accommodate different nation’s nutritional, cultural and social demands.

EAT Lancet diet remains within the planetary boundaries critical for the planet’s sustainability

The EAT Lancet Commission quantified five of the nine diet-relevant planetary boundaries critical to prevent irreversible damage to the Earth’s eco-systems and aligned the Planet Health Diet to keep within these boundaries:

  • Climate change

  • Land-system change

  • Freshwater use

  • Biogeochemical flows – Nitrogen & Phosphorus use

  • Ocean acidification

We are already operating outside of the defined safe limits for several boundaries, including climate change, biodiversity, land-system change, and biogeochemical flows (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus).

A transformation to Planetary Health Diets from sustainable food systems is vital to reduce these environmental pressures.

What are Planetary Health Diets?

The EAT-Lancet commission concluded that it is possible to feed 10 billion people a nutritionally adequate diet within planetary boundaries by 2050. However, this can only be achieved through widespread, multisector, multilevel actions. These include:

  1. A substantial global shift towards Planetary Health Diets

  2. Large reductions in food waste across the food chain

  3. Widespread adoption of more sustainable food production practices

The Planetary Health Diets are defined by the EAT-Lancet commission as flexitarian diets, which are largely plant-based but can optionally include modest amounts of fish and dairy products and minimal amounts of meat.

What are the benefits of Planetary Health Diets?

A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal-derived foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits. One of the major findings in their calculations was that dietary changes from current predominantly animal-based diets towards Planetary Health Diets could prevent approximately 11 million deaths per year, which represent between 19% to 24% of total deaths among adults.

How do current diets need to change?

Transition to these healthy dietary patterns by 2050 will require substantial global dietary shifts with a drastic increase of global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.

The EAT Lancet’s protein food recommendations prioritise legumes and nuts which account for 60% of this food group whilst meat accounts for 20% and fish for 14%. An average daily 500g of fruit and vegetables is recommended and wholegrains are recommended to similar levels as most food-based dietary guidelines. Plant fats are prioritised over animal fats.

A more recent publication by the EAT Lancet Commission highlighted the significant shift that will be needed in dietary patterns globally. The Commission reviewed adherence to 85 existing national food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG). Eight consistent measurable recommendations across all 85 FBDG were identified and compared to population intakes.

Shockingly, 24 nations failed to meet any of the eight recommendations whilst most adhered to no more than half the recommendations. The authors also highlighted that although achieving FBDG would go some way to mitigating environmental and health burdens, more stringent dietary shifts would be needed to be in line with the Planetary Health Diet to ensure dietary patterns fall within the planetary boundaries.

Conclusion

A synergistic combination of substantial shifts towards flexitarian plant-based dietary patterns, large reductions in food losses and waste, and major improvements in food production practices will be needed to feed 10 billion people within the planetary boundaries by 2050.

In line with the recommendations of the EAT-Lancet report, at Alpro Foundation we believe in a transition to a more-plant based diet whilst respecting the planetary boundaries.

Read more about the EAT Lancet Planet Health Diet

Find out more about the EAT Lancet commission

References

  1. Willett W, Rockstrom J, Loken B et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet 2019;10-6736. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31788-4/fulltext
  2. Springmann M, Spajic L, Clark MA et al. The healthiness and sustainability of national and global food based dietary guidelines: modelling study. BMJ 2020;370:m2322. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2322

Alpro Foundation report

Sustainable diets for better human and planetary health

Event

Webinar with Dr Fabrice De Clerk from the EAT Lancet Commission. Sustainable healthy eating: what does this really look like

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