CHEFS 4 THE PLANET

THE GLOBAL INFORMATION AND SOLUTIONS NETWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE GASTRONOMY

THE GLOBAL INFORMATION AND SOLUTIONS NETWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE GASTRONOMY

Governments’ dietary guidelines are harming the planet, study finds

Across the world, failure of official advice to provide sustainable, healthy diets is shocking, say scientists.

Official dietary advice across the world is harming both the environment and people’s health, according to scientists who have carried out the most comprehensive assessment of national dietary guidelines to date.

Food is responsible for a quarter of the emissions driving the climate crisis and millions of early deaths. The analysis assessed all available dietary guidelines, covering 85 countries and every region of the world. The researchers said governments’ failure to help people eat good diets was “shocking”.

In every country studied, the study found the diets people are eating today contain more red and processed meat than recommended by national or World Health Organization guidelines, and too little fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains in all but a few countries.

However, even if these guidelines were followed, the research showed only two countries had dietary guidelines in line with health, climate and pollution targets set by governments.

The researchers also assessed the impact of a “planetary health diet”, published by scientists in 2019, which recommends cutting red meat consumption by three-quarters in developed countries. Adopting this diet, and using campaigns and regulation to help people meet its requirements, would lead to big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the number of diet-related early deaths from illnesses including heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.

In the UK, following the planetary health diet would cut food-related emissions by 70% and diet-related deaths by 104,000 every year, compared with people’s current diets. In the US, where the study found the average citizen’s actual diet does not meet national advice for any food groups, emissions would fall 74% and deaths by 585,000. The emissions cut would be even greater in Australia – 86% – with a 31,000 fall in deaths.

“Countries are surprisingly bad in helping their populations to eat what they say is a good diet,” said Marco Springmann, at the University of Oxford, who led the study. “It was really shocking.”

“Most governments shy away from providing clear recommendations on limiting the consumption of [meat and dairy], despite their exceptionally high emissions and resource use,” he said. “The evidence of the environmental impact of our dietary choices is mounting, so it is really essential that official dietary advice is in line with that.”

Read the rest here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/15/governments-dietary-guidelines-are-harming-the-planet-study-finds

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