Human diet causing ‘catastrophic’ damage to planet


But to achieve this, red meat and sugar consumption would have to half (at least), and we'd have to double our intake of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas.

"This is the first attempt to set universal scientific targets for the food system that apply to all people and the planet", according to the final report, Food in the Anthropocene: Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems (pdf).

While the recommended planetary health diet is substantially different from how Canadians eat, it aligns with both the 2007 Canada Food Guide and the proposed revisions, says Jess Haines, associate professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph.

"To meet the recommendations for a healthy diet by 2050, we will need to ensure our food environment supports Canadians to increase their intake of vegetables, fruits, and plant-based proteins, such as legumes, as well as to reduce their intake of highly processed foods and animal-based proteins".

People would also be limited to 7g of pork a day - equal to a single cocktail sausage - and just 29g of chicken which is around one and a half chicken nuggets.

The study finds authors warning that a global change in diet and food production is needed as 3 billion people across the world malnourished (including both under and over nourished) and food production is overstepping overstepping environmental targets.

Currently, almost a billion people are hungry and another two billion are eating too much of the wrong foods, causing epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

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Providing healthy diets from sustainable food systems is an immediate challenge as the population continues to grow - projected to reach 10 billion people by 2050 -and get wealthier with the expectation of higher consumption of animal-based foods. "A combination of policies and practises will be needed to enable farmers to meet their ambitions but we must not forget the impact of a changing climate on food production - we only have to look back to the drought a year ago to see the effect it can have".

The new report was published January 16 in The Lancet journal.

Co-lead commissioner, Dr Walter Willett of Harvard University, has said in the report that the world's diet has to dramatically change. "It is clear too that a Great Food Transformation will not occur without widespread multi-sector, multi-level action, which must be guided by scientific targets". An effort also will be needed to protect land and ocean resources, and cut food waste globally. Globally, more than 820 million people remain undernourished and concurrently, prevalence of diseases associated with high-calorie, unhealthy diets are increasing, with 2.1 billion adults overweight or obese and the global prevalence of diabetes nearly doubling in the past 30 years.

For Ireland, the food and drink industry is worth approximately €12 billion, and this is heavily contributed to by beef and dairy production.

Reducing red meat consumption to half a rasher of bacon a day and eating more nuts will help avert climate change, scientists say.

"In the largest prospective study of vegetarian diets, people following vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or semi-vegetarian diets had 12% lower overall mortality risk than did omnivores".

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the IEA, accused the authors of the planetary health diet of campaigning for a "nanny state".