Implementing a balanced diet doesn’t just keep you and around 7.7 billion people across the globe healthy and fit. It also helps keep the health of the environment in good shape, according to the findings from a three-year project conducted and published by EAT-Lancet Commission.
The Commission brought in 37 experts from 16 countries, and provided the first wide-ranging review and scientific targets for a healthy diet out of a sustainable food system. The findings suggest that both diet and food production need to be transformed in the next three decades to maintain both the good health of humans and our planet. The study has created global guidelines for what constitutes a healthy diet. Researchers recommend to reduce consumption of red meat and sugar by more than 50% by 2050. On the other hand, increased consumption by more than twofold of fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes is suggested.
Food is one of the biggest factors that affect the health of both human lives and the environment. How and what people consume doesn’t just influence mankind’s wellness but also the planet as well through food production. Unhealthy diet is a major risk factor for various diseases while food production is one of the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions. This inextricable link between the food we eat and how it is grown, processed, delivered, consumed and wasted is going to either hurt or do good to us and the environment.
“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,” emphasized Tim Lang, one of the Commission authors from the University of London. The direct relationship between food consumption and production can either provide a double benefit or double jeopardy depending on how consumers, the government and private sectors respond to the call. For example, according to the Commission, a reduction in the consumption of red meat will not just minimize the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It also lowers meat production from livestock farming, a major contributor of climate-changing greenhouse gases.
Although the dramatic increase in food production has reaped benefits for the past 50 years, the Commission noted that this has been offset by the global shift to unhealthy diets that include animal-based foods, and foods high in calories and sugar content. And with the population set to increase to around 10 billion by 2050, the need for a global transformation of the food system and a push for healthier diets is getting more imperative every single day. “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 scientific targets we have devised for a healthy, sustainable diet are an important foundation which will underpin and drive this change,” added Lang.
Eating a healthy diet to save the environment is not new. But transforming the food system and setting guidelines for a healthy diet is a major breakthrough. This goes similarly with daily human habits. If you can bike or walk, then don’t use a car. If you’re in a dry country but want to garden, then opt for desert-friendly plants that are native to your place. If appliances are not used, then unplug them. These are little things that can have a big impact.
As expected, the Commission has faced strong opposition not just from affected sectors but also from consumers. “Experience has shown that, realistically, few people will avoid hamburgers to save rainforests,” Professor Bill Laurance from James Cook University said.
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