The World Health Organization (WHO) has withdrawn its support of the “Planetary Health Diet,” following pressure from an Italian official who raised concerns about the impact of the diet on people’s health and livelihoods, according to the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The Planetary Health Diet is the result of a study published by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health, which found that the healthiest and most sustainable diet is comprised of half fruits and vegetables and one-third whole grains. The remainder would be minimal dairy, eggs, fish, plant-based protein and healthy fats, with 7 grams of red meat and 29 grams of poultry allowed daily.
Gian Lorenzo Cornado, Italy’s ambassador and permanent representative of Italy to the international organizations in Geneva, questioned the scientific basis of the diet, reports BMJ, and warned that a global move to the diet could lead to the loss of millions of jobs linked to animal husbandry and destroy traditional diets that are part of a cultural heritage. BMJ quoted him as saying that “urging for a centralized control of our dietary choices risks the total elimination of consumers’ freedom of choice.”
The New Food Economy further quotes Cornado as saying: “A standard diet for the whole planet, regardless of the age, sex, metabolism, general state of health and eating habits of each person, has no scientific justification at all.”
Many experts, Vegan News (VN) reports, estimate that the diet would prevent around 11 million premature deaths; however, many medical professionals have also called it extreme and unscientific. VN quotes Georgia Ede, MD, medical researcher, licensed psychiatrist and columnist for Psychology Today as calling the Commission’s arguments “vague, inconsistent, and unscientific.” She added: “If the commissioners are concerned that red meat is dangerous, why not recommend other naturally iron-rich animal foods such as duck, oysters, or chicken liver for growing young women?”
New Food adds thoughts from Frank Mitloehner, air quality scientist at University of California-Davis, who says that methane from cows isn’t a big problem in the first place—and in fact, the legume-and-grain-heavy diet would necessitate deforestation for row crops.
All of that said, VN notes that, as per the authors of the study, the report is based on the latest science and does not call for centralized control of diet anywhere in the report. New Food also reports that the authors have said that the diet should vary from place to place specifically due to economic issues.