Updated: Mar 29, 2019
We live in a world where doctors routinely amputate the limbs of diabetic patients. The high insulin and sugar of metabolic disease leads to every organ and tissue in the body suffering damage and breaking down. The worldwide epidemic of diabetes is immense and only getting worse. According to a recent CDC report as of 2015 9.4 percent of the population has diabetes and many more have pre-diabetes.
The planet’s entire atmospheric system is out of balance and we face an ice free artic in the next decades or possibly sooner. Already we are seeing climate change flooding cities, drying up crop lands and burning down huge tracts of forests. Again, the suffering is immense and only getting worse.
The EAT-Lancet report and initiative claims to tackle both issues. It is both a multi-page study (published in the respected medical journal Lancet) and a major initiative to impact discourse on nutrition, health and the environment. The study is aimed at influencing nutrition and the environment at a time when both are in crisis.
The EAT foundation was formed by Gunhild Anker Stordalen a wealthy Norwegian physician and environmentalist. In a recent TED talk, Gunhild Anker Stordalen calls on people to eat unprocessed vegetables and cut out sugars and meats. She says that this is the only way to good health and a sustainable planet.
It’s true that the planet’s ecological systems are in deep trouble. But is cutting out almost all meat the answer?
Whatever the intentions of Stordalen and others behind the EAT-Lancet study, they are objectively pitting themselves against the low-carb diet movement that has focused on carbohydrates and sugar - not meat as the root cause of the current health crisis.
The dietary “science” in the report was led by well-known Harvard nutritionist Dr. Walter Willet. He is known for his strong views against saturated fat. A quick look at EAT-Lancet’s website shows how radical this anti fat dogma has become:
“The planetary health diet is a global reference diet for adults that is symbolically represented by half a plate of fruits, vegetables and nuts. The other half consists of primarily whole grains, plant proteins (beans, lentils, pulses), unsaturated plant oils, modest amounts of meat and dairy, and some added sugars and starchy vegetables. The diet is quite flexible and allows for adaptation to dietary needs, personal preferences and cultural traditions. Vegetarian and vegan diets are two healthy options within the planet health diet but are personal choices.”
In this plan, a 2500 calorie diet has 150 calories from meat, eggs and fish. This is very close to a vegan/vegetarian diet. A huge percentage of calories come from grains and fruit. Dr Georgia Ede, in a recent article, shows the potential dangers of this diet’s protein and vitamin deficiencies.
If you are already diabetic or insulin resistant how can this diet keep you healthy? How can half a plate of fruits and grains keep your blood sugars low? The study authors believe that saturated fat and not carbohydrates cause diabetes. This is a continuation of the anti-fat dogma formulated 40 years ago that led to the first government dietary guidelines.
Experience has shown that this low-fat diet has not stopped the epidemic of diabetes, whereas a high fat moderate protein diet often leads to overcoming diabetes. For example, Virta health has treated hundreds of people with a low carb/ketogenic diet. Their studies show that they have a 60% success rate in reversing Type 2 diabetes. 94% of their patients have reduced or eliminated the use of insulin after one year.
But EAT-Lancet ignores all of the evidence that there might be a different model for treating chronic disease in our society. They cling to an old model that has consistently failed to understand the problem or the potential solutions.
This is a complex conversation and there are many levels to consider including nutrition, environment and the role of biology in human interactions with nature. (For more on the politics behind EAT-Lancet I suggest this article.) But EAT-Lancet is overreaching by stating that the nutritional science is settled. I suggest people read this study and send comments because EAT-Lancet has the potential to shape nutritional policy which affects us all.