COMMENTARY

Global Nutrition Crisis: What in the World Is Going On?

William F. Balistreri, MD

Disclosures

September 10, 2019

In This Article

Challenges in Providing a Growing Global Population With Healthy, Sustainable Food

The second noteworthy report[3] was produced by the EAT-Lancet Commission, a project that brings together dozens of experts from 16 countries from the fields of health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, and economics. Their stated goal is to provide a healthy diet that ensures an appropriate caloric intake to every individual in the expanding global population. Ideally, this consists of a variety of plant-based foods; low amounts of animal-based foods ; unsaturated rather than saturated fats; and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars, while at the same time developing sustainable food systems that minimize damage to the planet.

The report is clear-eyed in outlining the challenges toward implementing these goals, given that current food production methods drive climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution (because of overapplication of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers), and unsustainable changes in water and land use.

The commission also delineated the factors that link obesity, metabolism, and climate change. A prime example they cite is our car-dominated transportation systems, which not only encourage inactive lifestyles but also lead to the generation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

The commission recommended a predominant plant-based diet, because studies have linked red meat to an increased risk for health problems. They also point out that eating habits affect the environment. The production of red meat takes up land and feed to raise cattle, which also emit the greenhouse gas methane.

The report estimated that if the world followed the recommended diet, more than 11 million premature deaths could be prevented each year, while also cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preserving more land, water, and biodiversity.

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