Achieving sustainable food systems that can adequately nourish a growing world population is an immense challenge. While much of the world population lacks sufficient food, unhealthy food choices pose equally serious risks to health. To address these important issues, the EAT-Lancet Commission, composed of leading scientists from various countries and disciplines, identified five transformative actions for healthy diets and sustainable food production. According to the Commission, data are both sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action. However, a newly published study in The Journal of Nutrition questions the global conclusions of the EAT-Lancet report and suggests further independent validation is needed.
While acknowledging that the goal of reducing the global burden of diet-related diseases and working towards sustainable food systems is laudable, Francisco Zagmutt (EpiX Analytics) and colleagues address limitations that call the Commission’s conclusions into question. The publication identifies multiple methodologic and statistical issues related to the Commission’s conclusions. Most importantly, after addressing key statistical issues and re-analyzing the EAT-Lancet’s calculations for the U.S., Zagmutt and colleagues concluded that the dietary plan promoted by the EAT-Lancet Commission may not prevent diet-related disease mortality.
Other criticisms focus on the framing of the report’s assumptions and results. For example, the report suggests a global diet that includes consuming more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and reducing added sugars and red meats by more than 50%, primarily in wealthy countries. The report notes that the role of animal food products should be carefully considered in low-middle/low sociodemographic index countries, despite evidence of the benefits of animal products and integrated crop-livestock production.
Zagmutt suggests the idea of a “global” diet may lead to a reduction in mortality in wealthier areas, while superficially addressing the issues of mortality and food insecurity in low socioeconomic countries. Furthermore, the Commission’s approach assumes a causal relationship between food risk factors and diet-related disease mortality, despite being largely based on observational nutritional studies, which could result in misestimation of risk factor impact on health.
Given these findings, the researchers conclude there is a need for further evaluation before these recommendations become actionable steps, as there is a great risk of implementing policies that are costly and possibly ineffective.
Reference Zagmutt FJ, Pouzou JF. Costard S. The EAT-Lancet Commission’s Dietary Composition May not Prevent Noncommunicable Disease Mortality. The Journal of Nutrition, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa020.
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