- There is a global need to significantly reduce consumption of red meat and sugar, while doubling the consumption of plant-based foods in order to achieve a sustainable food system for an estimated 10 billion population by 2050.
- Adoption of a plant-based diet primarily, sourced from dry beans, lentils, soy-based foods, and nuts, can prevent approximately 11 million early deaths per year due to their health-promoting benefits.
- Restriction of red meat consumption to around half an ounce daily with total meat intake not exceeding one ounce per day is recommended for a globally sustainable diet.
- There is a call for a shift in agricultural priorities, emphasizing greater production of plant-based foods and reduction of food wastage, as 30% of produced food is currently lost or wasted globally.
- Educational efforts and meal planning strategies are required to help adapt to these dietary recommendations such as integrating plant-based proteins into meals and dedicating specific meal times to plant-based consumptions.
The common individual’s daily food intake will require significant transformation over the next three decades to ensure sufficient nourishment for all without depleting the planet, as per conclusions drawn by specialist panels.
Reduction in Red Meat and Sugar Consumption
Expanding global food consumption such as red meat and sugar will need to be reduced around half to ensure that the Earth can sustain an estimated population of 10 billion by 2050, as per the EAT-Lancet Commission’s findings on maintaining health through sustainable food systems.
A Shift Towards Plant-based Diets
Simultaneously, the consumption of plant-based foods, including nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, will need to be doubled, experts recommended.
“In order to concentrate on achieving these new food objectives, agriculture needs to evolve, thus reducing the stress on the environment,” researchers shared. In addition, efforts are needed to safeguard land and ocean resources as well as address global food wastage.
Healthy Diets Impact on Human Health
While some may find it challenging to adapt to the proposed dietary modifications, these come with enormous benefits in terms of human health, says Co-Lead Commissioner Dr. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at a well-known School of Public Health.
“Adopting this healthy diet can prevent approximately 11 million early deaths per year,” Dr. Willett stated. “This is attributed to the replacement of unhealthy diet components with an increase in health-promoting elements.”
The commission’s globally sustainable diet recommends drawing most of the daily protein intake from either plants (dry beans, lentils, soy-based foods, and nuts) or dairy products.
Decrease in Meat, Eggs, and Fish
Red meat consumption should be limited to approximately half an ounce daily, with total meat intake not exceeding one ounce per day, according to the report.
Furthermore, even egg and fish quantities should be significantly reduced, with the guidelines permitting only an ounce of fish per day or one and a half eggs per week.
This could seem onerous, but Dr. Willett counters that people in the United States and elsewhere are already adopting similar diet plans.
Examples of Existing Dietary Adjustments
“This diet would absolutely include the traditional Mediterranean diet, which has seen an increase in interest and adoption,” says Dr. Willett.
“Recognition should also be given to the fact that red meat consumption in the U.S. has decreased by 40% since it hit its highest levels in 1970. This represents substantial change, although there is still room for further adjustment.”
Need for Change in Agricultural Priorities
“Agricultural priorities should change.” concludes commission member Jessica Fanzo, emphasizing that while the agricultural sphere has succeeded in feeding the world, it has failed to do it healthily. Fanzo suggests that we must increase our production of plant-based foods, nuts, and fish.
Reducing Food Wastage
In addition to the need for protecting agricultural land and fisheries, Fanzo highlights the issue of food wastage.
“30% of produced food is either lost or wasted globally, which is alarming, considering 800 million people go to bed hungry every evening.”
Dietary Changes Worldwide
The proposed diet presents challenges virtually everywhere globally, the commission admitted. For instance, North American countries consume almost 6.5 times the suggested amount of red meat, while South Asian countries consume only half the recommended amount.
Shift Towards Healthier Diets
Educational efforts and comprehensive meal planning are required to aid the adoption of healthier diets recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission.
Several strategies for those interested in adopting these dietary recommendations include incorporating plant-based protein sources in meals, integrating plant-based foods into traditional dishes, and dedicating specific meals to plant-based consumptions.
Find out more about the EAT-Lancet Commission here.