In addition to all the discussions, one thing is true: we, as humanity, are consuming more than the planet is capable of producing.
Each year, the so-called “Earth Overload Day” (the day when humanity consumed all available natural resources) happens earlier.
In 2018, that date was the 1st of August and, if humanity does not start doing something to reduce excessive consumption, it seems that in 2019, the date will be already in the month of July.
It was in search of a way to resolve this and other situations, such as hunger and climate change, that a group of 37 researchers developed a plan such as a “Diet of planetary health”.
The diet is the result of a 3-year project that involved scientists from 16 countries and from different fields of activity, such as health, agriculture, political science and sustainability and was published in The Lancet magazine .
Scientists have established an ideal diet for a healthy person, with 2,500 calories a day, considering the distribution of food among the 7.7 billion human beings on Earth.
What exactly is the Planetary Health Diet?
The Planetary Health Diet aims to allow the population to grow in a healthy way, both for its individuals, meeting the nutritional needs of each one, and for the planet, ensuring that natural resources are used in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Another idea behind the Planetary Diet is to decrease the incidence of chronic diseases, such as coronary artery disease, stroke and diabetes .
Thus, the diet points to an ideal daily intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, dairy products, proteins , fats and sugars, representing a total daily intake of 2500 kilocalories.
In the planetary diet, people should eat:
- 14g (30kcal per day) of red meat (including pork);
- 31g (120kcal per day) of sugar;
- 50g (39kcal per day) of starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, cassava, peas, beans, etc.);
- 51.8g (450kcal per day) of fats (soy oil, butter, margarine, etc.);
- 195g (696kcal per day) of poultry, eggs, marine food and vegetable protein;
- 200g (126kcal per day) of fruit;
- 232g (811kcal per day) of whole grains;
- 250g (153kcal per day) of dairy products;
- 300g (78kcal per day) of vegetables.
The creators of the diet recognize that adopting it would be a great challenge, especially since the change must be drastic and global.
For that, the consumption of foods like red meat and sugar needs to decrease by at least 50%, while the consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes would need to more than double.
In addition, the researchers consider the intake of approximately 2,5000 calories a day to be a healthy and sustainable average.
There is also the challenge of regional differences. For example, countries in North America consume almost 6 times more red meat than recommended, while countries in South Asia eat 1.5 times more starchy vegetables.
Arguments in favor of the planetary health diet
The arguments in favor of adopting the planetary health diet are based on the health and environmental benefits of these changes.
According to the creators, it is necessary to review the way we relate to food, because by the year 2050, the population of the earth will pass the 10 billion people, which will be unsustainable if we continue to consume food the way we do today.
If the diet were adopted today globally, 10.9 to 11.6 million premature deaths could be prevented every year, due to the decrease in sodium intake and the increase in the intake of whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits.
Another argument in favor is the preservation of planet Earth and the fight against climate change, better known by its old name “global warming”.
The Paris agreement, made in 2015, seeks to limit global warming to 2ºC. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to stop using fossil fuels, such as gasoline and coal.
However, this alone will not be enough, since most of the carbon emissions and other gases responsible for the greenhouse effect come from cattle.
Livestock, in addition to being responsible for deforestation, uses a large part of the soy produced to feed cattle.
According to the WWF ( World Wide Fund for Nature ), about 79% of the world’s soy is used to make animal feed, while only 18% goes to the production of soy oil.
Therefore, as the demand for meat increases, the demand for soybeans also increases.
All of this has direct effects on the environment and on people.
In Brazil, deforestation in the Cerrado and the Amazon Forest has direct effects on the volume of water in rivers and underground aquifers, as well as on the amount of rain in the southern and southeastern states.
If deforestation continues to increase, it is possible that, in the future, the South and Southeast regions of Brazil will undergo a process of desertification, which can generate migratory flows and natural disasters of unprecedented proportions.
Arguments against the Planetary Health Diet
The main argument against the Planetary Health Diet concerns meat intake and individual health.
The evidence that the consumption of red meat is directly linked to diseases that cause premature death, such as coronary artery disease, is not so strong, as it is difficult to separate the independent effect that meat has on an individual’s health.
People who eat red meat also have several other habits and food choices that simultaneously influence their health, which makes the factors somewhat confusing.
Still, there is one area where science is clearest: the link between processed meats and health risks.
Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage and bologna, are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer .
Even so, the Planetary Health Diet is still very controversial, as it is not necessarily ideal for everyone in the world.
For example, it suggests a daily intake of milk and dairy products, and there are people who need to live on restrictive dairy diets, as well as people allergic to lactose.
With that, the suggestion made by the scientists managed to displease both people who do not eat anything of animal origin (vegan) and those who do diets focused on eating animal protein.
Although controversial, the Planetary Health Diet raises important questions for the future of humanity, such as climate change and the influence of our food choices on deforestation and the emission of greenhouse gases.
Are you against or in favor of a planetary health diet? Tell us in the comments!