Study: Planetary diet could save Earth
Our current food production and consumption habits are doomed to “exacerbate risks to people and planet,” according to a landmark study published in The Lancet recently. But if we make a radical change — as in, cut our sugar and red meat by half and double our vegetable, fruit and nut consumption — we could potentially prevent up to 11.6 million avoidable deaths per year without hurting our home.
The new research comes from a group of 37 scientists from around the globe, all of whom are part of the EAT-Lancet commission.
According to EATforum.org, “food systems are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions” and are “the main user of fresh water, a leading driver of biodiversity loss, land-use change and cause eutrophication or dead zones in lakes and coastal areas.” Unhealthy diets offer harmful effects of their own. They’re “the leading risk factor for disease worldwide, causing rapidly growing rates of Noncommunicable-Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers.” World hunger is yet another challenge.
But despite evidence showing the way we eat and produce food is indeed damaging our planet and exacerbating disease, there isn’t a scientific consensus on what a healthy diet is, how food production can be sustainable and whether healthy diets can meet the demands of sustainability. That’s where the 37 scientists come in.
The researchers used the “best available evidence,” including randomized trials, massive cohort studies and controlled feeding studies to come up with what they’re calling the “planetary health diet.”
“To have any chance of feeding 10 billion people in 2050 within planetary boundaries, we must adopt a healthy diet, slash food waste, and invest in technologies that reduce environmental impacts,” coauthor Johan Rockstrom of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact Research told Phys.org. According to researchers, the Earth can only handle up to 10 billion people. And without the global adaptation of the diet, the planet may not be able to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
“It is about behavioral change. It’s about technologies. It’s about policies. It’s about regulations. But we know how to do this,” Rockstrom said.
The new diet provides “governments, producers and individuals with an evidence-based starting point to work together to transform our food systems and cultures,” Howard Frumkin, head of UK biomedical research charity the Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet Our Health program, which funded the research, told CNN.