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Food & diet

At Lancet, the universal diet “saves the planet”: more vegetables, less meat

March 14, 2019

It simultaneously saves people’s health and the health of the planet. It is the new diet prescribed by the journal Lancet, the result of the study by the Eat-Lancet Commission presented in Oslo and published in the prestigious journal of the same name. The mantra? Double the consumption of vegetables and reduce the consumption of meat by half, especially red meat. In fact, the pull of experts has confirmed that the bad habits at the table cause higher risks than those of tobacco, unprotected sex and alcohol, all together. We talked about it with Dr. Elisabetta Macorsini, biologist and nutritionist at Humanitas.


A “universal healthy diet of reference”, the ambitious goal of Lancet

In order to save us and the planet, we need to double our consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts as well as to reduce our global consumption of sugar and red meat more than 50% by 2050. These, in extreme synthesis, are the recommendations of the Eat-Lancet Commission presented in Oslo and published by the prestigious scientific journal. The commission, funded by the Eat Foundation of the Norwegian billionaire couple Petter and Gunhild Stordalen, brings together authors and experts from all over the world, including Fao and Oms. These include Harvard professor Walter Willett and the inventor of the “zero kilometer” Tim Lang, considered among the top experts in nutrition and sustainability.

Each individual is unique, which means that there cannot be a diet capable of responding to the collective needs. However, the ambitious goal of the magazine Lancet is precisely to propose a “universal healthy diet of reference”, based on scientific criteria that, beyond the necessary customizations, can indicate the path of sustainable nutrition. The experts therefore address the widest possible audience: a world population of 10 billion people in order to reach 2050 avoiding until 11.6 million deaths per year due to diseases related to unhealthy eating habits.


A Mediterranean diet with a sustainable impact

An explicit reference of the group of scholars is the Mediterranean diet, in the “frugal” version practiced in Greece in the middle of the last century. The universal diet includes the intake of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, dairy products, meat (beef or pork or sheep), chicken, eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, and a few sugars (added or not). Recommended seasonings: vegetable oils, extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed. Apparently, a significant reduction in meat consumption is necessary to nurture the planet in a sustainable manner.

In addition to changing the consumption, by reducing the waste by 50%, the authors of the report have set limit objectives in the use of land, water and nutrients for sustainable agricultural production. They also point out a wide variety of areas of action for achieving these results by involving governments, industry and society, such as education and information, labelling, etc., in order to achieve these objectives.


Humanitas’ opinion

“By 2050, the world’s population will reach 10 billion people and consequently it will be necessary to transform eating habits in order to improve food production and reduce waste,” said the nutritionist.

“To try to achieve this goal the proposed “universal diet”, which is based on the Mediterranean diet, provides for the intake of 2.500 kilocalories per day divided into doses of 230 g of whole grains, 500 g of fruit/vegetables, 250 g of dairy products, 14 g of meat (beef/pig/veal), 29 g of chicken, 13 g of eggs, 28 g of fish, 75 g of legumes, 50 g of nuts, 31 g of sugars (added or not), also counting the seasonings with extra virgin olive oil/colza or vegetable: doses apparently “impractical”, but let’s not forget that everything starts from the Mediterranean diet and therefore why not proceed with the proven diet?

In November 2010, the Mediterranean diet was in fact recognized by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The term “diet” is understood in an etymological sense, that is, a lifestyle to be followed by virtue of its beneficial effects on health: the Mediterranean diet is in fact more than a diet, yet a real nutritional model that is inspired by the eating styles of some countries in the Mediterranean area, has been studied and analyzed by nutrition professionals who agreed to define it as the diet that guarantees the best health value.

Speaking of a nutritional model, the WHO (World Health Organization) has recently published nutritional advice for 2019 for a proper diet: the diet must be balanced and varied with legumes as a valid alternative to animal proteins and whole grains provide a greater amount of fiber. It is also good to reduce and limit the consumption of salt, fat, sugar and, of course, alcohol.

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