Does plant-based necessarily mean healthy and sustainable?
Discover five recent scientific articles from our food, health and sustainability watch.
Argentine researchers examined food consumption in 3 population groups: preschool children (2-5 years), female adolescent aged 10–19 years and women of reproductive age (20-49 years). On this basis, intakes of different food categories, energy and nutrients related to non-communicable disease were assessed. Ultra-processed foods account for more than a quarter of total energy intake across the three study populations. Their consumption is associated with high intakes of nutrients contributing to non-communicable diseases. On the other hand, fruit, vegetables, and legumes intakes are negatively associated with the consumption of ultra-processed foods. This work highlights the need for measures that simultaneously reduce the consumption of ultra-processed foods while promoting a healthy and varied diet.
Current food systems must evolve towards greater sustainability in order to meet the challenges of climate change. To this end, an American study evaluated the environmental impact of 5 food models , as well as the specific impact of each food group composing the models studied. Results show that the 3 omnivorous diets contribute the most to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to the use of land and water resources. In line with the existing literature, red meat and dairy products are the food groups that contribute the most to the environmental impact. In conclusion, the authors invite the American health authorities to integrate sustainability in the updating of dietary guidelines . They particularly point out the need to reduce the consumption of red meat and dairy products in the U.S. population.
A significant proportion of obese subjects are metabolically healthy. To provide more data on this finding, researchers compared the anthropometric, nutritional, and biological profiles of two groups of obese populations: one with metabolic syndrome; one without. This comparison shows that obese subjects with metabolic syndrome present more eating disorders and sleep disorders. Subjects without metabolic syndrome adhere to a Mediterranean diet and consume more fruit and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, oleaginous fruits, linseeds and omega 3. Thus, this study highlights the major role of diet in protecting obese subjects from metabolic complications.
In order to find out the preferences of the Dutch for public health policies, researchers conducted a study based on the discrete choice method. Two scenarios of relatively intrusive public policies were presented to the participants. Positive financial incentives, such as fruit and vegetable subsidies, were considered the most relevant. Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages were considered useful when moderated moderated, but too intrusive for higher higher taxation. Three subgroups of populations were identified among respondents according to their perception of government intervention in individual food choices: against (17.4%); mixed (26.7%); in favor (55.9%). According to the authors, there is strong public support for less intrusive policies. The implementation of more intrusive policies, on the other hand, would require educational efforts to gain public support.
A recent study examined the associations between various combinations of unhealthy behaviour and mortality. The analysis included nearly 230,000 participants from the UK Biobank cohort . Of 77 high-risk combinations for mortality, smoking occurred in 79%, low fruit and vegetable consumption in 58%, and low oily fish consumption in 53%. Moreover, these high-risk combinations are more prevalent among more deprived populations than among more affluent populations. Thus, exploring unique combinations of a wide range of health behaviours can identify high-risk populations. Authors call for further research efforts to target the barriers to health in deprived populations.