Understand the EAT-Lancet Report in Under 5 Minutes

A document spanning 47 pages that was developed over 2 years by 37 experts from 16 countries addressing our food choices, health and the planet has just been published. It is available to all for free to read in detail after registering but the likelihood is few will read the entire document. It has generated headlines worldwide and has created discussion of the crucial topic of how to feed 10 billion persons by 2050. Here are highlights of key findings from reading this entire document along with some key figures.

Civilisation is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources. For the first time in 200 000 years of human history, we are severely out of synchronisation with the planet and nature. This crisis is accelerating, stretching Earth to its limits, and threatening human and other species’ sustained existence.

“The dominant diets that the world has been producing and eating for the past 50 years are no longer nutritionally optimal, are a major contributor to climate change, and are accelerating erosion of natural biodiversity.”

“The human cost of our faulty food systems is that almost 1 billion people are hungry, and almost 2 billion people are eating too much of the wrong food.”

The dietary shift that is needed requires a dramatic reduction of consumption of unhealthy foods, such as red meat, by at least 50%, with a recommended daily combined intake of 14 g (in a range that suggests total meat consumption of no more than 28 g/day), with variations in the change required according to region.

“High risks of cardiovascular disease and other outcomes associated with high consumption of red meat are probably partly due to multiple food constituents of animal sources of protein. The high ratio of saturated to polyunsaturated fat and high levels of heat-induced carcinogens and haem iron might contribute to higher risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers in people who eat red meat than in people who eat plant sources of protein.”

“Because intake of red meat is not essential and appears to be linearly related to total mortality and risks of other health outcomes in populations that have consumed it for many years, optimal intake might be 0 g/day, especially if replaced by plan t sources of protein.”

“Evidence supports consumption of plant oils low in saturated fat as an alternative to animal fats; however, no clear upper limit of consumption exists. Thus, a wide range is suggested, and we use 50 g/day of total added fat with a mix emphasising predominately unsaturated plant oils.”

“At the same time, an overall increase in consumption of more than 100% is needed for legumes, nuts, fruit, and vegetables, with the changes needed again varying according to region.”

“Our connection with nature holds the answer, and if we can eat in a way that works for our planet”

“As well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored. The nature that is disappearing holds the key to human and planetary survival.”

Key messages

  1. “Unhealthy and unsustainably produced food poses a global risk to people and the planet. More than 820 million people have insufficient food and many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and morbidity. Moreover, global food production is the largest pressure caused by humans on Earth, threatening local ecosystems and the stability of the Earth system.
  2. Current dietary trends, combined with projected population growth to about 10 billion by 2050, will exacerbate risks to people and planet. The global burden of non-communicable diseases is predicted to worsen and the effects of food production on greenhouse-gas emissions, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, biodiversity loss, and water and land use will reduce the stability of the Earth system.
  3. Transformation to healthy diets from sustainable food systems is necessary to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, and scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production are needed to guide a Great Food Transformation.
  4. Healthy diets have an appropriate caloric intake and consist of a diversity of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal source foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and small amounts of refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars.
  5. Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts, including a greater than 50% reduction in global consumption of unhealthy foods, such as red meat and sugar, and a greater than 100% increase in consumption of healthy foods, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. However, the changes needed differ greatly by region.
  6. Dietary changes from current diets to healthy diets are likely to substantially benefit human health, averting about 10·8–11·6 million deaths per year, a reduction of 19·0–23·6%.”

“Our universal healthy reference diet largely consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils, includes a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry, and includes no or a low quantity of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains, and starchy vegetables. Our definition of sustainable food production stays within safe planetary boundaries for six environmental processes that together regulate the state of the Earth system, and include climate change, land-system change, freshwater use, biodiversity loss, and interference with the global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.”

We show that it is possible to feed a global population of nearly 10 billion people a healthy diet within food production boundaries by 2050. However, this Great Food Transformation will only be achieved through widespread, multisector, multilevel action that includes a substantial global shift towards healthy dietary patterns, large reductions in food loss and waste, and major improvements in food production practices.”