Just Read: Alignment Of US School Lunches With The EAT-Lancet “Healthy” Reference Diet’s Standards For Planetary Health (“Healthy” in air-quotes)

This article also appeared in this week’s @Health_Affairs issue on climate and health.

It’s worth noting what companies underwrite the dietary standard being advanced here, as listed here: FReSH – EAT, which leaves one with an impression of significant conflict of interest, especially in the use of the label “healthy reference diet.”

One of the underwriters, Bayer, deserves special attention (see: Just Read: Carbon footprint of the global pharmaceutical industry – “Significantly worse than the automotive industry”)

2018.05 Low Carb and Low Carbon - Ted Eytan MD 1001-766
Low Carb and Low Carbon – Ted Eytan MD 1001-766 – “The pharmaceutical sector is far from being a green sector. In fact, the sector’s emission intensity in 2015was 48.55 Mt-CO2e/$M, which is about 55% higher than that of the Automotive sector of 31.4 Mt-CO2e/$M for that same year (Jackson and Belkhir, 2018). In absolute value, we estimated the aggregate global emissions of the Pharma sector to amount to about 52 MMt-CO2e in 2015 compared to about 46.4 MMt-CO2e emitted by the global automotive sector in that same year (Statista, 2018a) (where ”MMt” indicates Million of Metric tons).”

Source: Belkhir L, Elmeligi A. Carbon footprint of the global pharmaceutical industry and relative impact of its major players. J Clean Prod [Internet]. 2019;214:185–94. (View on Flickr.com)

Bayer is a conglomerate of the most interesting kind in this space. It manufactures:

* Pharmaceuticals
* Medical Devices
* Agricultural commodities (including soybeans of the GMO variety, perhaps ones of the kind used in today’s ultra-processed artificial-food burgers, as well as herbicides declared probable carcinogens by the World Health Organization (@who))

I might call this the trifecta of chronic disease creation and mitigation all at the same time.

Bayer also does not break out its GHG emissions by division, which gives it an extremely high emissions intensity compared to the other companies who report, about 4.2 times greater than the pharmaceutical sector.

To make matters worse, Bayer reports and tracks its emission intensity in terms of tons ofCO2e per ton ofmanufactured sales volume (Bayer, 2015, 2018), regardless of whether the manufactured goods are pharmaceutical products, medical devices or agricultural products. In other words, a ton of fertilizer and a ton of aspirin, are equally accounted for with respect to the level of emissions they generate.Belkhir L, Elmeligi A. Carbon footprint of the global pharmaceutical industry and relative impact of its major players. J Clean Prod [Internet]. 2019;214:185–94.

This seems like a 21st century version of what we saw in the 20th century, with nutrition “education” offered to physicians in the pages of medical journals (see: Physicians’ 20th Century Nutrition Education: via Medical Journal Advertisements (Food Has Always Been Medicine)

Here’s just one example:

2018.02.11 Pharmaceutical Ads, New York State Journal of Medicine, 1957 285
2018.02.11 Pharmaceutical Ads, New York State Journal of Medicine, 1957 285 (View on Flickr.com)

Also noting a quote from the piece that seems to violate the Ballerstadt (@Grassbased) principle that we optimize for human health first and then mitigate human impact, not the other way around (can’t have sick humans on a healthy planet):

It is possible that modifying National School Lunch Program standards to reflect sustainable dietary patterns similar to those of EAT-Lancet’s healthy reference diet could reduce the program’s environmental impact while enhancing the HHFKA’s nutritional gains. Specifically, the planet and National School Lunch Program participants could most benefit from the con- sumption of fewer animal-based food items (for example, red meat and dairy) and more plant-based food items (for example, vegetables, and legumes).Poole MK, Musicus AA, Kenney EL. Alignment Of US School Lunches With The EAT-Lancet Healthy Reference Diet’s Standards For Planetary Health. Health Aff [Internet]. 2020 Dec 1;39(12):2144–52. Available from: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/abs/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.01102

Finally, EAT-Lancet, already questionably healthy for adults, was not designed for children.

Another limitation is that the EAT-Lancet Commission’s healthy reference diet, although based on a comprehensive review and analysis ofexisting science by international experts from the fields of nutrition, agriculture, climate, and environmental health, was not designed specifcally forUS children. Rather, the guidelines were designed for adults with daily calorie needs exceeding those ofyoung children (2,500 per day). We addressed this by scaling EAT-Lancet’s daily guidance to line upwith the dailycalorie needs of elementary, middle, and high school students (1,800, 2,000, and 2,400, respectively) and then dividing by 3Poole MK, Musicus AA, Kenney EL. Alignment Of US School Lunches With The EAT-Lancet Healthy Reference Diet’s Standards For Planetary Health. Health Aff [Internet]. 2020 Dec 1;39(12):2144–52. Available from: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/abs/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.01102

I wouldn’t do this, again, in the interest of human health.

Reference

Poole MK, Musicus AA, Kenney EL. Alignment Of US School Lunches With The EAT-Lancet Healthy Reference Diet’s Standards For Planetary Health. Health Aff [Internet]. 2020 Dec 1;39(12):2144–52. Available from: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/abs/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.01102

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