Human nutrition is causing catastrophic damage to our planet

Impact of our global form of nutrition

Experts have now said that human production and consumption must change radically in order to avoid millions of deaths and catastrophic damage to our planet.

In their current study, scientists from the EAT – Lancet Commission and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that humanity urgently needs to change their food production and consumption in order to avoid catastrophic damage to our planet. The researchers published the results of their study in the English-language journal "The Lancet".

Global nutrition urgently needs to be restructured

The key to both goals is a dramatic restructuring of global nutrition. In the future, mankind will only be able to consume about half as much sugar and red meat, but consume twice as much vegetables, fruits and nuts, the authors of the study explain.

How does people's diet affect today?

Almost a billion people are currently suffering from hunger and two billion people are eating too many wrong Food that leads to epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. According to the latest Global Disease Burden report, up to eleven million preventable premature deaths can be attributed to unhealthy eating every year.

At the same time, the global food system is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the greatest driver of biodiversity loss and the leading cause of deadly algal blooms along coasts and inland waterways. Agriculture, which has changed almost half of the planet's land surface, consumes about 70 percent of the world's fresh water supply. The livestock bred not only releases large amounts of climate-damaging methane, it also causes a massive decline in vital forests that are cut down to make room for cattle.

How can the problem be tackled?

In order to have a chance to feed ten billion people in 2050, we need to eat healthier foods, reduce food waste, and invest in technologies that reduce the harmful effects on the environment, explains study author Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in a press release. The goals are achievable, but nothing less than a global agricultural revolution is required for this, the expert continues.

Meat consumption must be reduced dramatically

The cornerstone of the major food transformation required in the study is a human diet with about 2,500 calories per day. This does not mean that everyone has to eat the same way, but in general, especially in the wealthy countries, it means a reduction in meat and dairy consumption and a significant increase in the consumption of plant-based foods. The desired diet allows about seven grams of red meat per day, a maximum of 14 grams should apply. Typical hamburger patties weigh around 125 to 150 grams for comparison. At least five kilograms of grain are required to produce one kilo of meat. Before the meat comes to our table as a steak or lamb chop, about 30 percent has ended up in the trash can. A modest lentil stew, however, is also rich in iron and protein and a nutritious alternative to meat.

How much dairy products should be consumed every day?

The consumption of dairy products should be limited to one cup of whole milk (250 grams) per day (or its equivalent in cheese or yogurt) and only one or two eggs per week. At the same time, the changed diet requires an increase in the consumption of legumes such as peas and lentils, as well as vegetables, fruits and nuts by more than 100 percent.

Study met with criticism from food companies

Of course there was great discussion about the results of the current study. Representatives of the food industry in particular questioned these results. The same food companies that oppose these findings recognize that if they don't adapt, they may have no future, explains Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. There are also some multinational companies that reacted cautiously but positively to the study. (as)

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