Eat for your health and Mother Earth’s


Following the Planetary Health Diet, which includes eating more vegetables, is not only good for your health, but also the planet’s health. — AFP

You're probably familiar with the Mediterranean diet, but have you ever heard of the Planetary Health Diet?

Designed to provide healthy food for the 10 billion people who will inhabit the Earth by 2050, while limiting environmental impact, this diet, unveiled in 2019, has since been the subject of a host of scientific studies.

The latest research suggests that it could significantly reduce the risk of premature death, as well as reducing environmental impact.

In 2019, a commission of experts formed by the British medical journal The Lancet and the EAT Foundation, recommended adopting a diet that is both healthy and sustainable.

This was supported by extensive research presenting the workings and benefits of the Planetary Health Diet based on “an increase in consumption of healthy foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts), and a decrease in consumption of unhealthy foods (such as red meat, sugar and refined grains) that would provide major health benefits, and also increase the likelihood of attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The aim of this diet is to address “the need to feed a growing global population a healthy diet, while also defining sustainable food systems that will minimise damage to our planet”.

The scientific community is now taking a close interest in the health and environmental benefits of this specific diet.

A team of researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the United States, for example, suggests that it can not only reduce the risk of premature death, but also limit the impact of our diets on the planet.

“Climate change has our planet on track for ecological disaster, and our food system plays a major role.

“Shifting how we eat can help slow the process of climate change.

“And what’s healthiest for the planet is also healthiest for humans,” explained study corresponding author and Harvard professor of epidemiology and nutrition Dr Walter Willett in a news release.

The study methodology is based on the analysis of health data from over 206,000 men and women from three prospective cohorts: the Nurses’ Health Study I and II, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

The participants’ Planetary Health Diet Index (PHDI) – a kind of dietary score – was calculated every four years over a 34-year period, based on their answers to questionnaires on their diet.

The diet itself was divided into 15 food groups (whole grains, vegetables, poultry, etc).

The participants were all free of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular (heart) disease at the start of the study.

Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this research suggests that participants whose diets were closest to the Planetary Health Diet had a lower risk of death from all major causes combined.

The researchers even observed that the risk of premature death was 30% lower in the top 10% of adults most closely adhering to the diet, compared to those in the bottom 10%.

But that’s not all.

The environmental impact of this diet was also found to be reduced, by up to -29% for greenhouse gas emissions, -21% for fertiliser requirements, and -51% for the use of agricultural land for those who followed it best.

“The findings show just how linked human and planetary health are.

“Eating healthfully boosts environmental sustainability, which, in turn, is essential for the health and well-being of every person on earth,” concludes Prof Willett.

This is not the first time that the Harvard T.H. Chan School has studied the benefits of this diet.

A year ago, a team of researchers showed that eating healthy, environmentally-friendly foods was associated with a 15% lower risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The benefits are even greater for neurodegenerative and respiratory diseases, with a reduction in the risk of death estimated at 20% and 50% respectively. – AFP Relaxnews

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