EAT-Lancet Commission recommends “planetary healthy diet” at United Nations meeting

The EAT-Lancet Commission launched its global planetary health dietary recommendations at the United Nations yesterday, the latest in a series of proposals by the commission calling for drastic changes to both diet and food production.

The 37 experts from 16 countries with expertise across the health, environment, economic, and political spectrums were tasked with providing a scientific consensus on how to provide a healthy diet to a growing global population, while protecting the environment.  Globally, there are over 800 million people who do not have enough to eat. However, in more developed countries, diet-driven chronic diseases are on the rise, in in the U.S., over half of the population have a chronic health condition.

Diet and food production are also some of the leading contributors to environmental degradation, accounting for over a quarter of human contribution to climate change.

The EAT-Lancet Commission’s goal is developing dietary recommendations to reduce chronic diseases and environmental damage, while simultaneously allowing us to feed billions more people by 2050. Simply put, they are calling for a shift towards a plant-based diet.

What the commission is calling a “great food transformation,” the universal healthy reference diet “largely consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils, includes a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry, and includes no or a low quantity of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains and starchy vegetables.”

More specifically, planetary health plate should consist by volume of approximately half a plate of vegetables and fruits; the other half, displayed by contribution to calories, should consist of primarily whole grains, plant protein sources, unsaturated plant oils, and, optionally, modest amounts of animal sources of protein. The recommended targets for an intake of 2,500 calories per day include:

  • 232 grams whole grains (rice, wheat, corn, etc.)
  • 50 grams tubers (potatoes and cassava
  • 300 grams vegetables
  • 200 grams fruits
  • 250 grams dairy foods (whole milk or equivalents
  • 14 grams beef, lamb, and pork
  • 29 grams chicken and poultry
  • 13 grams eggs
  • 28 grams fish
  • 75 grams legumes
  • 50 grams nuts
  • 40 grams unsaturated oils
  • 11.8 grams saturated oils
  • 31 grams all sugars 

The commission also offers possible ranges for each target.  The targets are detailed in the commission’s report, available here.

Critics were quick to point out that the report was not externally peer-reviewed, and listed many references as incorrect. They say the report is founded on outdated, weak nutrition science, and that it fails to achieve an international scientific consensus for its dietary targets. Others say a plant-based diet would lead to more malnutrition and hunger worldwide. Further, critics say the commission is comprised of biased, unrepresentative leadership.

What are your thoughts on the report? Is plant-based the best approach for optimal health, both for humans and the planet? E-mail Integrative Practitioner editor, Katherine Rushlau, with your comments.