Sustainable dietary habits are linked to health benefits, says study

Large population research from Lund University in Sweden has revealed that sustainable dietary habits are associated with health benefits like a decreased risk of premature death from cancer and cardiovascular disease. The research was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Sustainable dietary habits are linked to health benefits, says study
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Our results indicate that dietary guidelines that are beneficial for both planetary health and personal health do exist.”

Anna Stubbendorff, Study First Author and Doctoral Student, Lund University

The EAT-Lancet Commission report details how the world should transform its food consumption and production if the Earth’s already fragile environment and insufficient resources are to satisfy 10 billion individuals in 2050. The report covered six diverse areas: water use, climate impact, phosphorus and nitrogen use, biodiversity, and acidification.

The EAT-Lancet diet has target values for daily intake of various food including vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fruit, seeds, and pulses (peas, beans, and lentils), and importantly less sugar, saturated fat, and meat when compared with the present consumption.

Employing theoretical calculations, the report also evaluated the diet’s advantages for human health and longevity.

We wanted to investigate scientifically how the EAT-Lancet diet could be linked to health, as it has not yet been sufficiently evaluated. The results clearly show that the diet can be linked to a lower risk of premature death.”

Anna Stubbendorff, Study First Author and Doctoral Student, Lund University

The scientists investigated 22,421 participants from the Malmö diet and cancer cohort to examine the links between health and diet. By generating a special points system displaying the similarity between the dietary habits of people to the EAT-Lancet diet, they could divide the participants into five groups. The greater the adherence to the EAT-Lancet diet, the higher points were assigned depending on the researchers’ model.

The scientists examined the link between the participants’ diet and mortality in an average follow-up of 20 years. The connection was adjusted for factors in addition to physical activity, smoking, BMI, and high alcohol consumption.

People who consumed a dietary intake nearest to the EAT-Lancet diet had a 25% lesser risk of premature death when compared to people with less adherence to the EAT-Lancet diet. The scientists while investigating the specific cause of death were able to connect the EAT-Lancet diet to a 24% lower risk of dying from cancer and a 32% lesser risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Anna Stubbendorff adds, “Even in cases where the study participants’ dietary habits were far from the targets for the EAT-Lancet diet, we observed a clear difference in total mortality, already when participants were halfway to the target.”

As a further step, the scientists intend to analyze the diet concentrating on nutrition. Anna Stubbendorff anticipates that the findings till now and the points system model would be utilized by other researchers in the future to create more sustainable dietary guidelines.

For many people, eating according to the EAT-Lancet diet would entail a major change, in particular for those living in the richer countries of the Western world. Research has shown that it is possible, but it will take time to change our eating habits.”

Anna Stubbendorff, Study First Author and Doctoral Student, Lund University

Anna Stubbendorff concluded, “Knowing that there is a diet that benefits both public health and the planet should increase our motivation, though. Either way, we humans need to change what and how we eat—to save our own health and our planet.”

Source:
Journal reference:

Stubbendorff, A., et al. (2021) Development of an EAT-Lancet index and its relation to mortality in a Swedish population. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab369.

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