Washington: A new study finds an international team of scientists developing a diet they say can improve health while ensuring sustainable food production to reduce further damage to the planet.
The diet is based on cutting red meat and sugar consumption in half and increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables and nuts, CNN reported.
According to the researchers, the new diet can prevent up to 11.6 million premature deaths without harming the planet.
The report was published in the medical journal The Lancet on Wednesday.
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. This in turn is driving climate change, loss in biodiversity and pollution.
Study authors elaborate that the world’s population is set to reach 10 billion people by 2050. That coupled with current diet and food production habits will exacerbate risks to people and planet.
According to Dr. Richard Horton, editor in chief at the Lancet elucidated upon the report’s findings noted that 1 billion people live in hunger and 2 billion people eat too much of the wrong foods.
The report suggests five strategies to ensure people can change their diets and not harm the planet in doing so: incentivizing people to eat healthier, shifting global production toward varied crops, intensifying agriculture sustainably, stricter rules around the governing of oceans and lands, and reducing food waste.
In an effort to enable a healthy global population, the team of scientists created a global ‘reference diet; which is an ideal daily meal plan for people over the age of 2. The study authors believe the diet will help reduce chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as environmental degradation.
The diet breaks down the optimal daily intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, dairy, protein, fats and sugars, representing a daily total calorie intake of 2,500.
The study authors realise that there has to be dietary shifts on a global level needing consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by more than 50 per cent.
In turn, consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes must increase more than two-fold, the report says.
The diet advises people consume 2,500 calories per day, which is slightly more than what people are eating today, said Willett. People should eat a “variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods and added sugars,” he said.
To enable populations to follow the reference diet, the report suggests five strategies.
-Subsidies fit under a recommendation to ensure good governance of land and ocean systems, for example by prohibiting land clearing and removing subsidies to world fisheries, as they lead to over-capacity of the global fishing fleet.
-Incentivizing farmers to shift food production away from large quantities of a few crops to diverse production of nutritious crops.
-Healthy food must also be made more accessible, for example low-income groups should be helped with social protections to avoid continued poor nutrition, the authors suggest, and people encouraged to eat healthily through information campaigns.
-When agriculture is intensified, it must take local conditions into account to ensure the best agricultural practices for a region, in turn producing the best crops.
-Reducing food waste by improving harvest planning and market access in low and middle-income countries, while improving shopping habits of consumers in high-income countries.