Food and Behaviour Research

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19 January 2019 - Psychology Today - EAT-Lancet's Plant-based Planet: 10 Things You Need to Know

Georgia Ede MD

EAT-Lancet

Should every day be Meatless Monday?

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

This article provides a highly informed critique of the recent, rather controversial study published by the 'EAT-Lancet Commission', which has received extensive media coverage.

The author, Georgia Ede MD, points out the many (and very serious) flaws in the arguments put forward by this consortium in support of a largely 'plant-based' diet as (in their opinion) the only healthy and sustainable solution to global population growth.

For more information on Dr Ede's background as a psychiatrist and the reasons for her personal and professional interest in nutrition, see her website 'Diagnosis Diet', which carries many other articles on the links between diet and health. Two in particular are particularly relevant to the controversy surrounding the potential effects on health and wellbeing of vegetarian and vegan diets, viz Food Fights: Are Vegan Diets Healthier for the Brain?, and Your Brain on Plants: Micronutrients and Mental Health
  
For additional commentaries on the recent Lancet study, see also:

An important new study about global nutrition was published this week that deserves everyone’s full attention: "Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems." [Don’t let the pretentious title intimidate you: you need to know what’s inside.]

This paper was commissioned and published by The Lancet - one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals - and penned by an international group of 37 scientists led by Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University. 

The product of three years of deliberation, this 47-page document envisions a “Great Food Transformation” which seeks to achieve an environmentally sustainable and optimally healthy diet for the world’s people by 2050. Its core recommendation is to minimize consumption of animal foods as much as possible, and replace them with whole grains, legumes and nuts: (SEE FULL ARTICLE FOR TABLE OF FOODS)

We all want to be healthy, and we need a sustainable way to feed ourselves without destroying our environment. The well-being of our planet and its people are clearly in jeopardy, therefore clear, science-based, responsible guidance about how we should move forward together is most welcome.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to look elsewhere for solutions, because the report fails to provide us with the clarity, transparency and responsible representation of the facts we need to place our trust in its authors.

Instead, the Commission’s arguments are vague, inconsistent, unscientific, and downplay the serious risks to life and health posed by vegan diets.

PLEASE SEE THE FULL ARTICLE FOR THE DETAILED ARGUMENTS - AND SUPPORTING EVIDENCE - THAT THE AUTHOR PROVIDES UNDER THE FOLLOWING HEADINGS: 

1. Epidemiology = mythology

2. Red meat causes heart disease, diabetes, cancer...and spontaneous combustion

3. Protein is essential…but cancerous

4. Omega-3s are essential...good luck with that

5. Vitamins and minerals are essential…so take supplements

6. Making up numbers is fun and easy

7. Epidemiology is gospel…unless we don’t like the results

8. Everyone should eat a vegan diet, except for most people

9. Pay no attention to the money behind the curtain

10. No to choices, yes to taxes?

THE AUTHOR CONCLUDES:

I believe, because I’m convinced by the science, that animal foods are essential to optimal human health. This is an uncomfortable biological reality we all have to wrestle with as creatures of conscience. Finding ways to support excellent health and quality of life for the creatures we depend on for our sustenance and vitality is one of our most important callings as caring stewards of our planet and all of its inhabitants.

But I’m also a firm believer in personal choice. We each need to become experts in what works best for our own bodies. Eat and let eat, I say. It seems clear that EAT-Lancet commissioners are neither supporters of personal choice nor the transparent distribution of accurate nutrition information that would empower people to weigh the risks and benefits of various diets for themselves.

Challenge Authority

The EAT-Lancet report has the feel of a royal decree, operating under the guise of good intentions, seeking to impose its benevolent will on all subjects of planet Earth. It is well worth challenging the presumed authority of this group of 37 “experts,” because it wields tremendous power and influence, has access to billions of dollars, and is likely to affect your choices, your health, and your checkbook in the near future.

Capitalizing on our current public health and environmental crises, the EAT-Lancet Commission pronounces itself as the authority on the science of nutrition, exploits our worst fears, and seeks to dictate our food choices in accordance with its members' personal, professional and possible commercial interests.

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a human clinical trial designed to test the health effects of simply removing animal foods from the diet, without making any other diet or lifestyle changes such as eliminating refined carbohydrates and other processed foods.

Unless and until such research is conducted demonstrating clear benefits to this strategy, the assertion that human beings would be healthier without animal foods remains an untested hypothesis with clear risks to human life and health. Prescribing plant-based diets to the planet without including straightforward warnings of these risks and offering clear guidance as to how to minimize them is scientifically irresponsible and medically unethical, and therefore should not form the basis of public health recommendations.