National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia

In an attempt to help curb worldwide issues such as climate change, and malnutrition in poverty stricken areas, a joint commission by EAT, a non-profit seeking to transform the global food system, and The Lancet, an old and respected medical journal, has released a recommended guideline for dietary and planetary health.

The report recommends cutting back meat consumption to at most, a burger patty or equivalent a week, and supplementing your protein intake with nuts, legumes, and beans. An increase in veggies and fruits would make up the bulk of your meal plate.

The dietary guideline was established by a coalition of over 30 scientists, researchers, and doctors designed not just with human nutrition in mind, but also sustainability. With estimations that the planet will reach 10 billion people by 2050, scientists are working to figure out how to feed them all.

Additionally, the red meat industry has for a long time, been known to be a contributor to greenhouse gasses, while land conversion for food production is the greatest factor in biodiversity loss. The report from the EAT-Lance commission estimates that through nutrition and agricultural changes from this diet, we can save 11 million lives every year.

That sounds pretty great.

The EAT-Lancet commission lists very specific macronutrient ranges for their proposed diet, from 300g of veggies per day, to only 7g for red meats. However, it's this specificity that is drawing criticism.

John Ioannidis, the chair of disease prevention at Stanford university has praised the growing attention to how diets can affect the environment, but states the commission doesn't represent the scientific uncertainty between health and nutrition.

Dr. Georgia Ede, who writes for the site Diagnosis: Diet, took issue with the report's specific recommendations. Dr. Ede's website makes the case for low carb and paleolithic diets.

She points out the commission says,

"We have a high level of scientific certainty about the overall direction and magnitude of associations described in this Commission, although considerable uncertainty exists around detailed quantifications."

And yet, they recommend 0 to 58g per day of poultry, with a 29g midpoint. This seems very specific.

People are not willing to give up meat so easily.

Still, the report is a good starting point for the discussion we need to have about food's connection to not just our health, but the planet's well-being.

As Dr. Howard Frumklin, head of the Wellcome Trust which helped found the EAT foundation says himself,

"The links among diet, health and the environment are well-documented, but, until now, the challenge of attaining healthy diets from a sustainable food system has been hampered by a lack of science-based guidelines.
"While this report does not have all the answers, it provides governments, producers and individuals with an evidence-based starting point to work together to transform our food systems and cultures."

What should be a discussion is turning into an argument.

If we're going to be able to feed everyone, ensure their diet is nutritionally balanced, and try to curb climate change, it's important that people start talking about the positives and negatives of their current diet. The report provides a sense of context to which people can compare and share their ideas and study.

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