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expert reaction to the EAT–Lancet Commission report on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’

Research published in the The Lancet argues that diet and food production will need to change in order to improve health and avoid damage to the planet.

Prof Alan Dangour, Professor in Food and Nutrition for Global Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:

“The analysis demonstrates that shifts in our diets can have enormous beneficial effects on health and also substantially reduce our impacts on the environment.  This significant ‘win-win’ for health and the environment is not a new finding, but this analysis, which for the first time defines environmental boundaries for the food system, is the most advanced ever conducted.

“The Commission recommends a ‘healthy diet’ for all.  Populations around the world eat strikingly different diets that have been shaped among other things by tradition, culture and wealth.  The ‘healthy diet’ would require significant shifts to existing dietary habits in most countries (including the UK), such as large reductions in meat intake and substantial increases in fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes consumption.  There is a major question about the ability of populations to shift to such dietary recommendations and their wider public acceptability.

“Many of the important policy recommendations in the Commission cut across the portfolios of traditional government departments (such as agriculture and environment, health, trade, international development in the UK) and will be challenging to implement in many countries.

“This is an important set of analyses that highlights the critical link between human health and the health of our planet.  Urgently increasing access to healthy and sustainable diets for all people, and coordinating effective policy responses across government departments, are among the key changes required if we are to safeguard human and planetary health in the coming decades.”

Prof Guy Poppy, Professor of Ecology at the University of Southampton, said:

“The global food system is complex and is failing to be good for planetary and human health. Changing the food production system and human consumption behaviour is one of the biggest challenges for society, especially as it must be quick enough to have the right effect on the environment and public health.

“This commission is an exciting development which really takes a systems approach to the intractable challenge and clearly articulates the diets which are good for the planet and your health. Developing the business systems to deliver these recommendations and the need to ‘nudge’ human consumption behaviour so dramatically will not be easy; but this ‘call to arms’ with its clear solutions is timely, comprehensively researched and deserves immediate attention.”

Dr Howard Frumkin, Head of Wellcome’s Our Planet Our Health programme, said:

“The links among diet, health and the environment are well-documented, but, until now, the challenge of attaining healthy diets from a sustainable food system has been hampered by a lack of science-based guidelines. While this report does not have all the answers, it provides governments, producers and individuals with an evidence-based starting point to work together to transform our food systems and cultures.

“We know the risks a poor diet poses to health and, in turn, the risks unsustainable agricultural practices pose to our planet.  We now have a menu of actions that can help address these challenges.”

‘Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’ was published in The Lancet at 23.30 UK time Wednesday 16th January 2019.

Declared interests

Prof Dangour: I hold competitive research funding awards to conduct research in the area of sustainable and healthy diets.  I am currently the Specialist Advisor to the (UK government) Environmental Audit Committee inquiry on Planetary Health.

Prof Poppy is also the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Food Standards Agency

Dr Frumkin: The Wellcome Trust is a founding partner of the EAT Foundation and funded this report

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