Lancet publishes nutritional shortfalls of EAT-Lancet diet

Beef Central, 09/03/2023

A new study, published in The Lancet Journal, has found a controversial diet released in 2019 has significant micronutrient shortcomings.

NEW research has found the controversial EAT-lancet diet has significant shortfalls in several key vitamins – recommending an increase of nutrient-dense animal source foods.

The landmark EAT-Lancet report, published in 2019, laid out how to nourish people and save the planet through a “planetary health diet”, consisting mostly of whole plant-based foods.

But new research, published this week in The Lancet Planetary Health, suggests the planetary health diet does not provide enough essential vitamins and minerals to nourish the global population – with an increase in beef consumption on the list of recommendations to fix the problem.

The paper says the shortcomings are even more evident when looking at women of reproductive age (15–49 years) who have increased iron requirements due to menstruation. The planetary health diet provides just 55 percent of recommended iron intakes for this population.

Titled “Estimated micronutrient shortfalls of the EAT–Lancet planetary health diet,” the research reveals important dietary shortfalls in iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B12.

The researchers used new globally representative food composition data and recommendations on harmonised nutrient intakes, both of which were published after the original EAT-Lancet publication. They also adjusted for how nutrients like iron and zinc are absorbed by the body on different types of diets.

Dr Ty Beal, research advisor at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and lead author on this publication said the diet could present some significant health problems.

“The planetary health diet is likely to help protect against noncommunicable diseases, which are the leading causes of death and disease worldwide, and to do so sustainably,” Dr Beal said.

“But these new findings on shortfalls in essential vitamins and minerals are concerning because deficiencies in these ‘micronutrients’ can lead to severe and lasting effects, including compromised immune systems and increased risk for infections; hindered child growth, development, and school performance; and decreased work productivity; all of which ultimately limit human potential.”

Eggs and avocadoes

The micronutrient shortfalls of the planetary health diet are due to the low amount of animal source foods, which make up just 14pc of total calories.

To make the planetary health diet adequate in micronutrients would require increasing nutrient-dense animal source foods. In addition, it would require reductions in a compound called phytate, which inhibits absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium.

The paper says this could be done by reducing the proportion of whole grains, legumes, and nuts – from the baseline planetary health diet, not from current consumption—or, preferably, by reducing the phytate in these foods through crop breeding and processing, including soaking, fermenting, and sprouting.

According to Dr Jessica Fanzo, Boomberg distinguished professor of food policy at Johns Hopkins University and co-author said more research was needed on the sustainability of a diet.

“The challenge in providing enough micronutrients is doing so sustainably. It is not clear exactly how much animal source food, and which types, could be sustainably produced worldwide: experts have different perspectives,” Dr Fanzo said.

“But there is a limit. And there will inevitably be trade-offs to grapple with, between human health and environmental sustainability.

“It is important to use all available approaches to improve diets, including improving diet quality through nutrient-dense foods of both plant and animal origin, and food fortification and supplementation, which have limitations but can help fill micronutrient gaps sustainably and affordably.”

Dr Mduduzi Mbuya, director of knowledge leadership at GAIN said more needed to be done to ensure future studies into sustainable food ensure nutritional needs.

“Future efforts to propose healthy and sustainable diets must ensure micronutrient adequacy, tailor recommendations according to the local context, equitably involve local stakeholders impacted by any changes, and be transparent about trade-offs,” Dr Mbuya said.

“Preserving human health and protecting our planet are more important now than ever. All of society must rise to the challenge, now, to address these integrally linked and equally important challenges.”

Source: GAIN









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  1. jenny James, 09/03/2023

    I would also like them to also research on whether lack of animal protein is also causing the now common life threatening problem of haemorrhaging during birthing of our babies.

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