The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health brought together more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to define a scientific consensus on what defines a healthy and sustainable diet.The Commission has now delivered the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation.
Transformation to healthy diets from sustainable food systems is necessary to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, and scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production are needed to guide a Great Food Transformation. This Commission brought together 19 Commissioners and 18 coauthors from 16 countries in various fields of human health, agriculture, political sciences, and environmental sustainability to develop global scientific targets based on the best evidence available for healthy diets and sustainable food production.
A universal healthy reference diet was quantitatively described to provide a basis for estimating the health and environmental effects of adopting an alternative diet to standard current diets, many of which are high in unhealthy foods. Scientific targets for a healthy reference diet were based on extensive literature on foods, dietary patterns, and health outcomes.
This healthy reference dietlargely consisted of whole grains, together with vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils. A low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry was included, while no or a low quantity of refined grains were advised, together with added sugar, starchy vegetables, red and processed meat.
Using several approaches, global adoption of the reference dietary pattern would provide major health benefits, with a high level of certainty, including a large reduction in total mortality. The Commission integrates the healthy diet with global scientific targets for sustainable food systems, and aims to provide scientific boundaries to reduce environmental degradation caused by food production at all scales.
Application of this framework to future projections of world development indicated that food systems can provide healthy diets for an estimated global population of about 10 billion people by 2050 and remain within a safe operating space.
When it comes to specific and quantitative recommendations, consumption of whole grains was emphasized. No less than 232 grams of whole grains per day were included to account for a large part of the energy in the healthy, sustainable diet described in this report.
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In a recent series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in the Lancet, researchers investigated the role of carbohydrate quality and health, and evaluated quantitative recommendations for intakes of dietary fiber, on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The researches evaluated prospective studies and randomized controlled trials on carbohydrate quality and non-communicable diseases. Data from 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials with 4635 participants were included in the analyses. A 15 to 30 percent decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality, and incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke incidence and mortality, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer was suggested from observational data comparing the highest dietary fiber consumers with the lowest.
Clinical trials showed lower bodyweight, blood pressure, and total cholesterol when comparing higher with lower intakes of dietary fiber. Greatest risk reduction was found for a daily intake of dietary fiber between 25 and 29 grams and dose-response data suggested that higher intakes of dietary fiber could confer even greater benefits. Similar findings for whole grain intake were observed. However, smaller or no risk reductions were found with the observational data when diets of low and high glycemic index or load were compared.
The researchers conclude that the findings ‘associated with relatively high intakes of dietary fiber and whole grains were complementary, and striking dose-response evidence indicates that the relationships to several non-communicable diseases could be causal. Implementation of recommendations to increase dietary fiber intake and to replace refined grains with whole grains is expected to benefit human health.’
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In the recent days, the very first meeting of a Swedish whole grain partnership was held. Several of the members of the Nordic Rye Forum were involved in an application that was granted by the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (Vinnova), in their Challenge-Driven innovation (CDI) funding program. The program is intended for projects that aim to contribute to achieving the global sustainability development goals in Agenda 2030.
Aim of the project
The aim of the granted project is to establish a public-private partnership to promote increased whole grain intake for improved public health through innovations around products, services and communication.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 70 percent of deaths worldwide, and constitute one of the largest societal challenges for a sustainable development. One of the goals of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 is to ensure health, for example through reduction of NCDs. High whole grain intake is strongly associated with reduced risk of major NCDs, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. However, in Sweden whole grain intake is far below the recommended 75 gram per day.
The establishment of a public-private partnership is proposed to engage key stakeholders in society, including industry, academy, municipalities, regions, retailers and NGO’s, aiming to increase whole grain intake in Sweden. This is to be done through accelerated innovation around whole grain products and actions in different parts of the society that increase availability of whole grain products and awareness of its health benefits. In parallel, changes in whole grain intake will be monitored and health effects evaluated.
Inspired by the Danish Whole Grain Partnership
A public-private whole grain partnership has been successfully implemented in Denmark, where average whole grain intake increased from 36 to 63 grams per day over seven years. Encouraged by the success in Denmark, the Swedish whole grain partnership aims to innovate and develop new products and services to increase availability of whole grain products and awareness of its health benefits. These efforts are expected to lead to increased whole grain intake for the benefit of public health in Sweden.
Three phases of the funding program
The CDI program is divided into three phases, Steps 1-3. In the present application, funding for Step 1 was granted for the formation of the partnership member constellation and the setting of a project plan for Step 2.
Initial partner constellation
The initial member constellation of the partnership includes Chalmers Technical University, Lantmännen, Fazer, Pågen, Leksandsbröd, Nestlé, the Swedish Food Federation, the Bread Institute, the Municipality of Gothenburg, the Heart-Lung Foundation and Konsumentföreningen Stockholm (KfS; the consumer organization of Stockholm). Shortly, new members from a broad societal spectra will be invited.
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