The well being of the planet and that of humankind are profoundly interconnected: the best way we feed ourselves has a big affect upon each our personal well being and that of the surroundings. The rise in latest a long time of non-communicable illnesses intently linked to our food regimen, corresponding to most cancers and diabetes, and the truth that meals programs account for one third of greenhouse gases, has led numerous worldwide organizations to work to shift individuals’s dietary patterns in the direction of more healthy and, on the identical time, extra sustainable diets.
Anna Bach Faig, a FoodLab group researcher and member of the School of Well being Sciences on the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), has spent two years main a analysis venture commissioned in 2019 by the World Well being Group (WHO). The venture, titled “Dietary Patterns for Well being and Sustainability”, had the mission of constructing worldwide consensus amongst consultants and designing actions to progress in the direction of a extra sustainable and wholesome meals system for Europe. The main focus of Bach Faig’s analysis on the UOC has all the time been the connection between meals and well being and lately she has added sustainability to this. She mentioned, “What we placed on our plates is so necessary. For well being causes, and environmental ones, too, we merely cannot proceed with the present manufacturing and consumption mannequin.”
Stemming from a gathering held in Copenhagen with worldwide consultants within the fields of meals and sustainability, the researcher and her staff – which included Sergi Fàbregues, member of the UOC’s School of Psychology and Schooling Sciences and researcher at its IN3 GenTIC analysis group, who was chargeable for the methodological half – have printed an open-access article in BMC Public Well being, which establishes a shared understanding of what sustainable wholesome consuming ought to entail.
The article concludes that there’s a want for a multi-stakeholder method, with the simultaneous execution of an aligned and coherent mixture of insurance policies in several fields, such because the formulation of strategic tips and modifications in laws. One necessary step is the necessity to replace wholesome consuming tips, as most of them don’t take sustainability into consideration: “It’s essential to replace current tips, or create and implement new ones. Solely 20% of European food-based dietary tips incorporate meals sustainability,” defined the researcher. Not too long ago, AESAN, the Spanish Company for Meals Security and Diet, printed a report with suggestions on sustainable diets and bodily exercise for the general public.
A primarily plant-based food regimen is essentially the most wholesome and sustainable
“There’s broad scientific consensus across the dietary patterns Europeans ought to undertake to enhance their well being and sustainability: particularly, there is a want to extend our consumption of vegetable-based meals (fruit, greens, complete cereals, pulses, nuts and seeds) and lower our consumption of crimson meat – each processed and unprocessed – and ultra-processed meals excessive in salt, fats and/or sugar,” mentioned the UOC researcher.
This really means going again to the standard Mediterranean food regimen, which is excessive in greens and fish and low in meat (the Japanese food regimen could be one other legitimate choice). Along with their optimistic results upon well being, plant-based diets are useful for sustainability, provided that such meals have a decrease environmental affect than animal-based ones, when it comes to not solely greenhouse gasoline emissions, but in addition using water, land, nitrogen and phosphorus, affirmed Bach Faig. “The Mediterranean food regimen is an effective instance of a meals sample that’s useful for well being and the surroundings. Sadly, the general public’s meals patterns have develop into extra ‘Westernized’, with the inclusion of empty energy from refined sugars, fat and alcohol.” This has led to a rise in obese and weight problems, along with an increase in non-communicable power illnesses. By the use of instance, in line with the European Regional Weight problems Report 2022, Spain is without doubt one of the European international locations with the best prevalence of kid weight problems.
Actions for a more healthy and extra sustainable food regimen
The opposite consequence of this analysis led by the UOC has been the publishing of a WHO report on Wholesome and sustainable diets: key workstreams within the WHO European Area. This doc brings collectively a sequence of traces of motion to advertise modifications in meals programs and dietary patterns. These embrace the necessity for public procurement processes for meal suppliers to prioritize wholesome and sustainable diets; rising analysis into the dietary worth and environmental affect of processed plant-based meals (a few of which include excessive quantities of salts and sugars); reformulating processed meals, decreasing the fats, sugar and salt content material, and so forth.
With modifications of this type, we are able to obtain a big discount within the affect on the planet and enhance the general public’s well being. If we keep in mind that “22% of deaths worldwide could be attributed to a excessive consumption of salt and a low consumption of complete cereals and fruit, retaining the Mediterranean food regimen sample in our context is essential for public well being,” famous the researcher.
Our planet’s well being is a core strategic theme for the UOC, as is analysis into diet and wholesome and sustainable meals. The college has simply been offered the Catalan Community of Wholesome Universities Award for a grasp’s diploma remaining venture on well being promotion with regard to the UN’s Sustainable Growth Objectives (SDGs) by a pupil on its Grasp’s Diploma in Diet and Well being.
Bach-Faig, A., et al. (2022) Consensus-building across the conceptualisation and implementation of sustainable wholesome diets: a basis for policymakers. BMC Public Well being. doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13756-y.
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