About 50 years ago, the global health situation was characterized by high mortality from infectious diseases, hunger, infant and maternal mortality and poverty. Today, the life expectancy has increased, population grown and the general health situation improved. While improved food production has contributed to these milestones, we risk not enjoying the benefits for much longer due to the global shifts towards unhealthy diets. More people across the globe are eating processed, refined carbs and animal based products, diets high in calories, sugar, and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and fish. We now have a double burden of malnutrition; both over nutrition and undernutrition occurring in the same household.
According to a new Lancet report, “feeding a growing population of 10 billion people by 2050 with a healthy and sustainable diet will be impossible without transforming eating habits, improving food production, and reducing food waste.” This demonstrates the role of diet- the planetary health diet- in promoting health and preventing catastrophic damage to the planet. If followed, the recommendations will see the consumption of red meat and sugar reduce by about 50% while the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will double. In the diet based on 2500kcal per day, approximately 35% of calories will be from whole grains and tubers and plant proteins, and approximately 14g of red meat (beef, lamb, pork) per day and 500g of fruits and vegetables per day; as per country practices.
Besides ensuring health, this will also help to protect the environment. Food production is the largest source of environmental degradation, and to ensure no further damage to the environment, food production will require reclaiming instead of expanding crop land, using less harmful agricultural practices which includes improving fertiliser and water use, reducing emission of methane and nitrous oxide and producing zero carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases).
This will also require halving food wastage and increasing production and access of nutritious plant based food.
Full article: The Lancet: Diet and food production must radically change to improve health and avoid potentially catastrophic damage to the planet
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