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EAT-Lancet commission divides opinion on how to eat to save the world

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Norwegian thinktank EAT has teamed up with The Lancet to create a consensus on what defines a healthy and sustainable diet.

More than 30 scientists have been commission as part of an international research group – the EAT-Lancet Commission, launched in Oslo, Norway – to essentially devise the best way to eat to save the world. The suggestions put forward have sparked considerable debate and controversy.

Feeding an ever-expanding global population and combatting epidemics of health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease are prominent worldwide issues. Because what we eat can have such a large impact on not just our bodies, but also the world around us, diet is at the forefront of these discussions.

The EAT-Lancet Commission launch consisted of a number of talks from the group’s leading scientists and marked the start of a series of global launch events. Alongside this, their 47-page report, entitled ‘Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’ was released in The Lancet.

The report identified that unhealthy and unsustainable food sources pose a global risk to both the planet and the people living on it. The primary concerns outlined were unsustainable population growth, global burden of non-communicable diseases and the impact of global food production on the environment.

The report opines: “Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts, including a greater than 50% reduction in global consumption of unhealthy foods, such as red meat and sugar, and a greater than 100% increase in consumption of healthy foods, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.”

As a potential solution to these issues, the commission outlined their ‘healthy reference diet’ in the report. This reference diet consisted of mostly whole grains, such as rice, wheat and corn, supported by a range of vegetables and fruit. Animal-derived foods such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs very much take a backseat in this, with the recommendation for beef and lamb standing at an average of just 7g per day.

Concerns have been expressed that the EAT-Lancet diet is not nutritionally replete. Researcher and blogger Dr Zoë Harcombe, PhD, identified that it is likely deficient in multiple essential nutrients including vitamin B12, retinol (a derivative of vitamin A), vitamin D, vitamin K2, sodium, potassium, calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.

There is also a question of whether systematically replacing animal-derived food production with plant-based alternatives really is better for the environment; this is indeed an area where the debate is very much ongoing.

Editor’s note: Debate rolls on regarding nutritional advice worldwide, but the approach to improving health that is gaining more and more momentum is low carb. Earlier this month, our Low Carb Program app was approved by NHS Digital; the program has shown to help more than 40% of users on medication at the program’s start come off at least one diabetes drug at the one-year mark.



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