Plant-based future 'needed to protect planet'

18 January 2019 09:10

Plant-based options are commonplace during Veganuary

Plant-based options are commonplace during Veganuary

A plant-based diet is needed to protect future generations and safeguard the wellbeing of the planet, according to experts.

Scientists claim a massive dietary shift from meat to healthier, more sustainable vegetable-based consumption could prevent 11 million premature deaths per year by 2050.

It would also reduce the damaging impact of climate change, including soil erosion, deforestation and the growing loss of biodiversity.

Researchers say this would require consumption of red meat and sugar to at least halve, while intake of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes would need to double.

Finite resources

By 2050, the world population is expected to reach 10 billion - but Earth has finite resources for food production.

Current diets, with a growing emphasis on Western-style high calorie foods laden with saturated fats, are pushing the planet beyond its natural boundaries, while causing ill-health and early death, the researchers say.

The solution, based on three years of modelling studies, is a diet consisting of around 35% of calories obtained from whole grains and tubers, and protein mostly derived from plants.

Daily poultry consumption would be confined to 29 grams - equivalent to one and a half nuggets - and fish to 28 grams, a quarter of a medium sized fillet. Eggs would be restricted to around 1.5 per week.

Significant overhaul

The EAT-Lancet Commission brought together 37 experts from 16 countries specialising in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, economics and politics.

Professor Tim Lang, one of the authors from City, University of London, said: "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.

"We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country's circumstances. While this is unchartered policy territory and these problems are not easily fixed, this goal is within reach and there are opportunities to adapt international, local and business policies.

"The scientific targets we have devised for a healthy, sustainable diet are an important foundation which will underpin and drive this change."

Findings from the experts are reported in the latest issue of The Lancet medical journal.

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