The new "planetary health diet" can save lives and the planet, according to an important revision

An international team of scientists has developed a diet that says it can improve health while ensuring sustainable food production to reduce damage to the planet.

An international team of scientists has developed a diet that says it can improve health while ensuring sustainable food production to reduce damage to the planet.

An international team of scientists has developed a diet that says it can improve health while ensuring sustainable food production to reduce damage to the planet.

The "planetary health diet" is based on halving the consumption of red meat and sugar and increasing the intake of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

And it can prevent up to 11.6 million premature deaths without harming the planet, says the report published Wednesday in the medical journal The Lancet.

The authors warn that a global change in diet and food production is needed, since 3 billion people worldwide are undernourished, which includes people who are malnourished and undernourished, and food production is exceeding environmental objectives, promoting climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

The world population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050; that growth, plus our current food and food production habits, "will exacerbate the risks for people and the planet," according to the authors.

"The risks are very high," said Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, about the report's findings, noting that 1 billion people live in hunger and 2 billion people eat too much of the wrong foods.

Horton believes that "nutrition has not yet managed to get the kind of political attention that is given to diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria."

"Using the best available evidence" of controlled feeding studies, randomized trials and large cohort studies, the authors presented a new recommendation, explained Dr. Walter Willett, lead author of the paper 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 doing so: encourage people to eat healthier, change world production towards varied crops, intensify agriculture in a sustainable manner, impose rules stricter on the governance of the oceans and lands and reduce food waste.

The planetary health diet & # 39;

To enable a healthy global population, the team of scientists created a global reference diet, which they call the "planetary health diet", which is an ideal daily feeding plan for people older than 2 years, who believe that it will help reduce chronic diseases. such as coronary disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as environmental degradation.

The diet breaks down the optimal daily intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, dairy products, proteins, fats and sugars, which represents a total daily caloric intake of 2,500.

They recognize the difficulty of the task, which will require substantial changes in the diet globally, and that the consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will decrease by more than 50%. In turn, the consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes should increase more than twice, says the report.

The diet advises people to consume 2,500 calories per day, which is a little more than what people eat today, Willett said. People should eat a "variety of plant-based 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 consider. For example, North American countries consume almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while countries in South Asia eat 1.5 times the required amount of starchy vegetables.

"Almost all regions of the world are far exceeding" the recommended levels of red meat, Willett said.

The health and environmental benefits of dietary changes like these are known, "but, until now, the challenge of achieving healthy diets from a sustainable food system has been hampered by the lack of guidelines based on science, "said Howard Frumkin, Director of biomedical in the United Kingdom. Our Planet Our Health charity program from The Wellcome Trust. The Wellcome Trust funded the investigation.

"It provides governments, producers and individuals with a starting point based on evidence to work together to transform our food systems and cultures," he said.

If the new diet were adopted worldwide, between 10.9 and 11.6 million premature deaths could be avoided each year, equivalent to 19% to 23.6% of adult deaths. According to one of the models in the report, the reduction in sodium and the increase in whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits contributed the most to the prevention of deaths.

Make it happens

Some scientists are skeptical about whether the world population can be changed to this diet.

The recommended diet "is quite impressive," in terms of how feasible it is and how it should be implemented, said Alan Dangour, professor of global food and nutrition for health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. What "makes implementation quite difficult" is the fact that intergovernmental departments must work together, he said. Dangour was not involved in the report.

At the current level of food production, the reference diet is not achievable, said Modi Mwatsama, senior scientific leader (food systems, nutrition and health) at the Wellcome Trust. Some countries can not grow enough food because they may lack, for example, resistant crops, while in other countries, unhealthy foods are promoted to a large extent, he said.

Mwatsama added that, unless there are structural changes, such as subsidies that move away from meat production, and environmental changes, such as limits on the amount of fertilizer that can be used, "we will not see people who comply with this objective".

To allow populations to follow the reference diet, the report suggests five strategies, of which subsidies are an option. These conform to a recommendation to ensure good governance of terrestrial and oceanic systems, for example, by prohibiting the clearing of land and eliminating subsidies to global fisheries, as they lead to overcapacity of the world's fishing fleet.

Second, the report describes strategies such as incentivizing farmers to shift food production from large quantities of a few crops to a diverse production of nutritious crops.

Healthy foods should also be more accessible, for example, low-income groups should receive help with social protections to avoid continued poor nutrition, suggest the authors, and encourage people to eat healthy through campaigns of information.

A fourth strategy suggests that when agriculture intensifies, local conditions must be taken into account to ensure the best agricultural practices for a region, while producing the best crops.

Finally, the team suggests reducing food waste by improving harvest planning and market access in low- and middle-income countries, while improving consumer purchasing habits in high-income countries.

Louise Manning, a professor of agri-food and supply chain resilience at Royal Agricultural University, said that meeting the goal of reducing food waste is "something very difficult to achieve" because it would require government, communities and households They join.

However, "it can be done," said Manning, who did not participate in the report, noting the decline in the use of plastics in countries such as the United Kingdom.

The health of the planet

The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 aimed to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Achieving this goal is no longer just to de-fuel energy systems by reducing fossil fuels, but also in a food transition, said Johan Rockström, professor of environmental sciences at the Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University. , in Sweden, who co-directed the study.

"This is urgent," he said. Without the global adaptation of the reference diet, 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 crop fields and pastures they release nitrous oxides. But the authors believe that these emissions are inevitable to provide healthy food to 10 billion people. They stress that the decarbonisation of the global energy system must progress faster than anticipated, to adapt to this.

In general, ensuring a healthy population and planet requires the combination of all strategies, concludes the report: important changes in diet, improvement in food production and technological changes, as well as a reduction in food waste.

"Designing and putting into operation sustainable food systems that can offer healthy diets to an increasingly rich and rich world population presents a formidable challenge. Nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution, "said Rockström, adding that" solutions exist.

"It's about behavior change. It's about technologies. It's about policies. It is about regulations. But we know how to do this. "

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