'Planetary health diet' could avert premature deaths and safeguard the Earth

Less beef more beans. Experts say world needs a new diet

'Planetary health diet' could avert premature deaths and safeguard the Earth

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has come out swinging in response to the publication of a controversial scientific report outlining what it claims are "healthy diets" from sustainable food systems.

"The dominant diets that the world has been producing and eating for the past 50 years are no longer nutritionally optimal, are a major contributor to climate change, and are accelerating erosion of natural biodiversity".

The commission developed the new "planetary health diet" with the goal of feeding 10 billion people, healthfully and without damaging the planet, by 2050.

The panel behind the report is comprised of 37 experts from 16 countries specialising in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, economics and politics.

While people in some poorer counties may benefit from getting more of the nutrients in meat and dairy products, the report says they shouldn't follow the path of richer countries in how much of those foods they eat in coming years.

The solution, based on three years of modelling studies, is a diet consisting of around 35pc of calories obtained from whole grains and tubers, and protein mostly derived from plants.

For example, it calls on people, particularly in the west, to reduce red meat and sugar consumption by half, while vegetables, fruit, pulses and nuts must double.

No more than 29g of chicken should be eaten a day, with one and a half eggs per week being the max consumed.

But convincing people to overhaul their diets will be hard, especially in areas where meat, cheese, eggs and other restricted foods are integral to the culture.

Professor Tim Lang, one of the authors from City, University of London, said: 'We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country's circumstances.

The report from the Lancet Medical Journal suggests that the current global food system is unsustainable, with food production being the largest cause of global environmental change. The EAT-Lancet Commission, a group formed to research the future of food and sustainability, released a summary report this Thursday that attempts to change these habits before it's too late.

The shift could prevent 10.8 to 11.6 million deaths annually, researchers said.

To make up for the obvious lack of calories in this "health reference diet" the report recommends you eat 125g (almost 18 times the amount for beef and lamb) of dry beans, lentils, peas, soy foods, peanuts and tree nuts. Regarding the human diet, the Trust added: "Humans have evolved as red meat eaters and, providing this is part of a balanced diet, beef and lamb provide superior types of protein and fat to plant sources".

Overall, transformation of the global food system is "urgently needed" because more than 3 billion people are malnourished, the report said.

Complying with the diet would mean people in the United Kingdom slashing their meat consumption by 80%, according to the free-market think tank The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

But the report's co-lead, Commissioner Professor Johan Rockström, said current methods of food production "now pose a threat to the stability of the planet". This could not be achieved voluntarily, it maintained. "This puts both people and the planet at risk", the team said. They note the recommendations are compatible with the US dietary guidelines, which say to limit saturated fat to 10 percent of calories.

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