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Good diet is too costly for people and the planet, says new Lancet study

FE Online
diet, nutrition, EAT-Lancet Commission diet, food, sustainable development

How expensive is it to adhere to a good, healthy diet? Prices are skyrocketing and you know that every time you shell out more when you buy fruits, vegetables and food items from your local or retail store. Now, a new study has come out with a startling finding that a diet which can improve human and planetary health would be unaffordable for 1.58 billion people worldwide, most people living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia!

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These findings have been published in The Lancet Global Health on Thursday.

Recall how earlier this year, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health published recommendations for a universal diet. which addresses human and planetary health, according to researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in the US. Their suggestion was that adherence to this diet would ensure the sustainability of future food systems and nutritiously feed the estimated population of 10 billion people in 2050. The new study sought to address what most felt was one of the main components lacking in the creation of the recommended diet, namely affordability.

One of its senior authors William Masters categorically stated that the study had taken the aspect of addressing individual health outcomes along with the planet’s health. The team found that the EAT-Lancet diet was 64 per cent costlier than the lowest-cost combination of foods that would provide 20 essential nutrients. Note that the EAT-Lancet diet indicates higher quantities of animal-source foods and fruits and vegetables than the minimum required for nutrient adequacy, and much higher quantities than are now consumed in low-income countries.

Considering that the global median of the proposed diet would cost USD 2.84 per day. In low-income countries, that amounts to 89.1 per cent of a household’s daily per capita income, this makes it much more than expensive than people can actually spend on food, according to an observation by Kalle Hirvonen, who also
pointed that the EAT-Lancet reference diet would cost 6.1 per cent of per-capita income in high-income countries.

For those wondering what EAT-Lancet Commission diet consists of, be rest assured that it includes the following:

whole grain
nuts and unsaturated oils
seafood and poultry
minimal red meat and processed meat
minimal added sugar, refined grains & starchy vegetables.
Fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods tend to be the most expensive components of a healthy diet. However, prices tend to vary around the world.

Economist Kalle Hirvoven has been quoted as saying that even assuming that many poor consumers aspired to consume healthier and more environmentally sustainable foods, there would be obvious income and price constraints as hurdles, thereby rendering this diet unaffordable.