“Civilisation is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources. For the first time in 200 000 years of human history, we are severely out of synchronisation with the planet and nature. This crisis is accelerating, stretching Earth to its limits, and threatening human and other species’ sustained existence.”
Those words, found on the main page for EAT-Lancet, are from comments by Tarmara Lucas and Richard Horton, editors for The Lancet. EAT-Lancet is a campaign to force a high-carb, nutrient-deficient, and plant-based diet on all or most of the world’s population. The report itself, Food in the Anthropocene, is basically an opinion piece with the names of 37 scientists attached to it; but it doesn’t represent consensus opinion in the field nor are the references in the report reliable. The groups behind it have global aspirations. I don’t automatically have a problem with this, despite my dislike of technocratic paternalism, for I understand there are global problems that require global solutions (pollution, for example, knows no national boundary with 40% of worldwide deaths attributed to air pollution alone). But there is a long history of bad dietary advice and official recommendations being imposed on large populations. I’m not fond of dominator culture, no matter how good the intentions. We might be wise to take caution before going down that road again.
Besides, there seems to be an inherent contradiction behind this advocacy. The report and the editorial both are praising basically what is the same old diet that governments around the world have been pushing since the late 1970s, a diet that is correlated with an epidemic of chronic diseases. The journal’s own editors seemingly admit that they see it as a forced choice between “a healthy diet” and “balancing planetary resources” — one or the other but not both. Or rather, since many of them don’t follow their own advice (more on that further down), it’s good health for the rich shoved onto the malnourished shoulders of the poor. This interpretation is indicated by how the report simultaneously acknowledges certain foods are healthy even as those very foods are supposed to be restricted. Then the authors suggest that vitamin supplementation or fortification might be necessary to make up for what is lacking. This is further supported by the words of Walter Willet, one of EAT-Lancet’s main advocates — he argues that, “If we were just minimising greenhouse gases we’d say everyone be vegan”, a highly questionable claim as the data is off, but Willett has also been reported as acknowledging that, “a vegan diet wasn’t necessarily the healthiest option”. The EAT-Lancet report itself actually discusses the health benefits of animal foods. Such a deficient diet can’t honestly be called healthy when it requires nutritional supplementation because the food eaten doesn’t fully nourish the body. Sure, if you want to be a vegan for moral reasons to save the planet or whatever, more power to you and be sure to take vitamins and hope you don’t become to malnourished and sickly. But let’s be clear that this has nothing to do with good health.
Other than the ethics of meat-eating, why is this dietary regimen near-vegan in its restriction of animal foods? It’s not always clear, in the report, when a dietary suggestion is intended to promote human health or intended to promote planetary health (or maybe something else entirely). Are they really trying to save the world or simply hoping to prop up a collapsing global order? And what does this mean in practice? “Here is another question,” tweeted Troy Stapleton, “If one were to provide a patient with advice to eat a “plant based diet” should the patient also be given information that this advice is based on environmental concerns and not their health?” This is a serious set of questions when it comes to sustainability. This EAT-Lancet diet of high-carbs and processed foods is guaranteed to worsen the chronic diseases that are plaguing us, as Walter Willet has argued himself (see below), and the rapidly rising costs of healthcare because of this could bankrupt our society — not to mention healthcare has a much more vast carbon footprint than does animal food production. That is the opposite of sustainable, even if one ignores the moral quandary of giving people bad health advice in the hope that it might save the planet, despite the lack of evidence supporting this hope.
The claims about a healthy diet are suspect for other reasons as well. “The Achilles heel of the proposal?,” asks Tim Noakes and then continues, “Most must surely realise that this cannot be healthy in the long term.” For a key area of health, “Our brains NEED animal foods. They’re 2/3 fat and can’t function without DHA. It also needs Vitamins B12, K2, A & Iron. They’re ONLY in animal foods & without them we have major brain issues. The spread of veganism is pouring fuel on the mental health crisis fire” (Carnivore Aurelius). The EAT-Lancet diet is similar to the macrobiotic diet and that is worrying. Why do mainstream authorities have endless praise for plant-based diets? There is no consistent evidence of greater health among vegetarians and vegans, and much evidence in favor of meat consumption. In some comparisons, they fare better while, in others, they do worse. And on average, they are middling in health outcomes, and middling isn’t overly impressive in our disease-ridden society. The data shows that vegans and vegetarians take twice as many sick days as meat-eaters, have lower sperm counts, etc. This might explain why there are more, three times to five times more in fact, ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians than still practicing vegans and vegetarians — 84% going back to meat and most of those after only a year on the diet, and the largest percentage cited concerns about declining health as the motivating reason. American ‘vegetarians’, on average, eat one serving of meat a day and this involves most who identify as vegetarian, particularly common while drunk which includes a third (37%) of them, but I’ve been surprised by how many vegans and vegetarians I’ve come across who somehow don’t consider fish to be animals and so eat them freely. In responding to accusations of fad diets, David Gillepsie summarizes the nutritional failure of plant-based diets as potentially some of the worst fad diets:
“Research indicates that “the health of Western vegetarians is good and similar to that of comparable non-vegetarians”. However, studies also tell us that while vegetarian diets provide higher amounts of carbohydrates, omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, fibre, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium (compared to omnivores) they have lower amounts of protein, saturated fat, omega-3 fats, vitamins A, D and B12 and Zinc. Vegans are usually particularly low in B12 and also Calcium, a deficiency they are likely to share with hard-core paleo enthusiasts because both avoid dairy. We use vitamin B12 to create our DNA, red blood cells and the myelin insulation around our nerves. Not having enough of it can result in fatigue, weakness, psychiatric problems and anaemia. B12 deficiency in children and the elderly is even more worrying. Studies have consistently shown that children and older people lacking B12 suffer significant cognitive defects such as memory and reasoning. The lack of long chain omega-3 fats, the abundance of omega-6 fats and deficiencies in the fat soluble vitamins A and D are also serious cause for concern particularly in pregnancy.”
I have no doubt the EAT-Lancet proponents know this kind of data. But since among the authors of the report “more than 80% of them (31 out of 37) espoused vegetarian views” and “have, through their work, been promoting vegetarian, anti-meat views since before joining the EAT-Lancet Commission” (Nina Teicholz) and since “Oxford’s Dr Marco Springmann, the scientist behind much of the environmental portion of EAT Lancet[,…] is an activist vegan not considered biased but a cattle rancher is” (Frank Mitloehner), they wouldn’t be prone to spreading this contrary evidence that undermines their belief system and ideological agenda. As these same scientists know or should know, this is not a new situation since malnourishment caused by dietary guidelines has been going on for generations at this point (consumption of nutrient-dense foods and animal-based foods has followed the same downward trend, opposite to the upward trend of simple carbs, seed oils, and processed foods). This point is also made by Nina Teicholz: “Americans have eaten more plants, fewer animal foods, and 34% less red meat since 1970. While, rates of obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed. How does it make sense that continuing on this path will improve health if it hasn’t so far?” Compare that to American in “1955 when more than half of our calories came from meat, eggs, milk, cream, fats and oils […] and adult diabetes was virtually unheard of“ (Adele Hite, Keeping it Simply Stupid) and that was a lower level of animal foods than seen before that, such that: “In 1900 our diet was 10% carbs, in 2010 it is 63%” (Carroll Hoagland). This isn’t limited to Americans since the 1977 US Department Diet Guidelines were adopted widely throughout the world, based on extremely weak evidence and bad science.
Not long before the Eat-Lancet report was published, The Lancet journal also published a paper on the large and well-controlled PURE study that showed a diet low in carbs and high in animal foods, both meat and fat increased health — including the sources of saturated fat that most often gets blamed: “Those eating the highest levels of dairy and red meat saw their chances of early death fall by 25 per cent and a fatal heart attack cut by 22 per cent” (Nick McDermot). Based on The Lancet’s own published data, the EAT-Lancet recommendations make no sense. And as EAT-Lancet was based on weak science, it is sadly amusing that The Lancet just published another paper stating that, “In the absence of randomisation, analyses of most observational data from the real world, regardless of their sophistication, can only be viewed as hypothesis generating.” I’m pretty sure the EAT-Lancet report wasn’t intended to merely generate hypotheses. So, what is the justification for these unscientific dietary recommendations? Stating it simply, Teicholz concludes, “There is no rational basis for that.” And as usual, Dr. Jason Fung shares his take on the situation: “they know they’re going to succeed with the same advice. Insanity, literally.” In another tweet, Tim Noakes concludes with a rhetorical question: “Don’t humans ever learn?”
Official dietary recommendations have been a grand failure, one could easily argue, and we have no reason to expect different results, other than a continued worsening as ill health accumulates from one generation to the next. Then again, maybe it hasn’t failed in that maybe it’s purpose was never to promote public health in the first place. When something seems to fail and continues to get repeated, consider the possibility that it is serving some other purpose all too well. If so, the real agenda simply isn’t the one being publicly stated. Not to be conspiratorial, but human nature is what it is and that means people are good at rationalizing to themselves and others, particularly in terms of system justification for the very system one is benefiting from. It is largely irrelevant whether or not they sincerely believe they have good intentions.
Perhaps the covert motive is old school social control and social engineering, and quite possibly motivated by genuine concern of paternalism. Promoting a single diet for all the world would mean more big government run by technocrats who work for plutocrats, all to make the world a better place and it just so happens to directly benefit certain people more than others. The ruling elite and the comfortable classes are starting to worry about the consequences of capitalism that has slowly destroyed the world and, in a technocratic fantasy, they are hoping to manage the situation. That means getting the masses in line. There are too many useless eaters. And if the excess population (i.e., the takers) can’t be eliminated entirely without a lot of mess and complication (World War III, plague, eugenics, etc), their consumption habits could be manipulated and redirected so that they don’t use up the resources needed by the rich (i.e., the makers). Since the teeming masses are useless anyhow, it matters not that they’ll become further malnourished and sickly than they already are. Sure, an increasing number will die at a younger age and all the better, as it will keep the population down. (Yes, I’m being cynical, maybe more than is called for. But I don’t feel forgiving at the moment toward those who claim to have all the answers to complex problems. Let them experiment on themselves first and then get back to us later with the results.)
The commissioners of the report recommend that governments use “choice editing” in order to “guide choice” (nudge theory) through incentives, disincentives, and default policy or, failing that, “restrict choice” and “eliminate choice” to enforce compliance. That is to say, “the scale of change to the food system is unlikely to be successful if left to the individual or whim of consumer choice. This change requires reframing at the population and systemic level. By contrast, hard policy interventions include laws fiscal measures, subsidies and penalties, trade reconfiguration, and other economic and structural measures.” And they are ambitious: “For significant transformation to happen, all levels of society must be engaged, from individual consumers to policymakers and everybody along the food supply chain.” This interventionism, including “banning and pariah status of key products” along with “rationing on a population scale”, would be more authoritarian in its proposed strategy than prior guidelines. I wish that were a joke, but they are deadly serious. With a straight face, the same corporate-funded interests (big food, big ag & big oil) behind EAT-Lancet are telling us that, “We support the implementation of a global treaty to limit the political influence of Big Food” (Kat Lay, Tackling obesity ‘needs treaty like climate change’). “If hypocrisy was a food group we could feed thousands and thousands of people” (Linda Snell). It’s misleading to call these ‘guidelines’ at all when the object is to eliminate choice because the masses are seen as being too stupid and weak to make the right choice.
No doubt, an austerity diet would never be willingly accepted by entire populations. In the blockade following World War II, the residents of Berlin were forced by circumstances into severe restriction of a subsistence diet based mostly on carbs while low in calories, protein and fat — not that far off from the present official dietary ideology. Writing in 1952, Dr. H. E. Magee, Senior Medical Officer of the UK Ministry of Health, concluded: “The Berlin diet was austere… and only the compelling force of hunger and the fear of political oppression would, I believe, make any civilized community continue to eat a similar diet for as long as the Berliners did” (Nutrition Lessons of the Berlin Blockade). Yet so many officials continue with the mentality that austerity diets are the way to go: calorie counting, portion control, etc. But Gary Taubes, In Why We Get Fat, shows that all this accomplishes is making people endlessly hungry with the perverse effect of gaining weight, even if initially losing it. Other than a blockade or government enforcement, hunger almost always wins out. That is why the only successful diets are satiating, which generally means nutrient-dense and high-caloric, that is to say mainly fatty animal foods. But to the modern mind built on Christian morality, the real problem is that we are gluttonous sinners. We must be punished with deprivation to cleanse our souls and expiate our sins.
As always, the elite want to tell the lower classes how to live and then to have them do as their told, by carrot or stick. “The EAT-Lancet Commission spent three years calculating the first scientific targets for a healthy, globally-sustainable diet,” wrote Nick McDermott. “But,” he noted, “the panel of experts admitted none of them were on it.” Most of them admit their hypocrisy and the others maybe are unwilling to state it publicly: “The commission said red meat should be seen as “a treat”, similar to lobster but the plan is so strict that two out of three commission members introducing the diet at a briefing in London on Wednesday said they were not currently sticking to it. Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief at The Lancet, said: “I’m close, but I have two eggs for breakfast every morning, so I’m already having too many eggs.” Author Dr Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, also admitted: “I am moving towards it, but I have young kids at home, which is driving me in the wrong direction” (Sarah Knapton, ‘Planetary health diet’: Britons urged to cut meat intake to equivalent of one beefburger a fortnight).
The billionaires behind the EAT Foundation brazenly post pictures of themselves eating meat, from massive hamburgers to squid (and at least one of them identifies as a ‘vegan’). So, do as they say, not as they do. Also pointing out the blatant hypocrisy were Nina Teicholz and Dr. Jason Fung, the former stating it bluntly about one of the rich advocates: “#EATlancet funders: Private plane jetting around the world, major carbon footprint lifestyle while telling others to save planet from global warming. Doesn’t sound right.” Connecting some dots, Jeroen Sluiter observed that this isn’t exactly new behavior for the paternalistic dietary elite: “This reminds me of how nutrition guidelines’ first villain, Ancel Keys, lectured all of us about the “dangers” of meat while frequently enjoying the most delicious roast beef with his wife Margaret.”
I was reminded of the exact same thing. In reference to Ancel Key’s “stringent vows of the dietary priesthood”, Sally Fallon Morell offers the following note (p. 157, Nourishing Diets): “Actually, Keys recommended the practice of renunciation for the general population but not for himself or those of his inner circle. The esteemed researcher Fred Kummerow, PhD, defender of eggs and butter in the human diet, once spied Keys and a colleague eating eggs and bacon at a conference for cardiologists. When Kummerow inquired whether Keys had changed his mind about dietary fats and cholesterol, Keys replied that such a restricted diet was “for others,” not for himself.” In The Big Fat Surprise, Nina Teicholz also talks about this hypocrisy: “Keys himself, according to the [Times Magazine (January 13, 1961)] article, seemed barely to follow his own advice; his “ritual” of dinner by candlelight and “soft Brahms” at home with Margaret included meat—steak, chops, and roasts—three times a week or less. (He and Stamler were also once spotted by a colleague at a conference tucking into scrambled eggs and “five or so rations” of bacon.) “Nobody wants to live on mush,” Keys explained” (p. 62). Keep in mind that Keys was the main figure that forced this dietary religion onto the American population and much of the rest of the world. With persuasive charisma, he righteously advocated that others should eat a high carb and high fiber diet with restricted animal products: meat, fat, butter, eggs, etc. This became government policy and transformed the entire food sector. The eventual impact has been on possibly billions of people over multiple generations. Yet it wasn’t important enough for his own dietary habits.
There is not enough to go around, but don’t worry, our benevolent overlords will never go without. As yet another put it with some historical context, “The elites will never eat this diet they prescribe to the masses. Meat for me. And wheat for thee. The elites with their superior bodies brains intellects and money will need special nutrition to maintain their hegemony and rightful place as leaders of the planet. Ask yourself why the silicon valley brainiacs are all on keto/carnivore. It’s a reenactment of feudal life w fatty meats for the elites & thin gruel for the peasants” (David Smith). A high-carb diet combined with low-protein and low-fat has always been a poverty diet, rarely eaten by choice other than by ascetic monks: “A vegetarian or fish-based diet was most often associated with self-denial and penitence” (Sydney Watts, “Enlightened Fasting”; from Food and Faith in Christian Culture, p. 119). Worse still, it easily can lead to malnutrition and, except when calories are pushed so low as to be a starvation diet, it’s fattening.
This general strategy has been done before. It’s a way of shifting the blame and the consequences elsewhere. It’s the same as promoting feel good policies such as encouraging recycling for households, which helps distract from the fact that the immensity of waste comes from factories and other businesses. The rich use most of the resources and cause the most problems. Yet it’s the rest of us who are supposed to take responsibility, as consumer-citizens. What the rich pushing this agenda refuse to talk about is that the entire system is to blame, the very system they disproportionately benefit from. The only way to solve the problem is to eliminate the socioeconomic order that creates people so rich and powerful that they dream of controlling the world. If sustainability is the genuine concern, we might need to return to a smaller-scale decentralized way of living where solutions come from communities, not enforced by distant bureaucrats and technocrats; or else we need a new democratic self-governance. But that would mean reducing inequality of wealth and power by bringing the resources and decision-making back to local populations and/or the national citizenry. As Peter Kalmus wisely put it, “You cannot have billionaires and a livable Earth. The two cannot go together.” That isn’t what the billionaires Petter and Gunhild Stordalen leading this campaign want, though (their organization is the EAT part of EAT-Lancet). They like the inequality just fine the way it is, if not for the problem of all those poor people.
As Herman Melvile put it, “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” The rich are worrying about what will happen when the living conditions, including diets, improve for the rest of the global population. And there is reason to worry for, after all, it is a finite planet. But the upper classes should worry about themselves, with the externalized costs of their lifestyle (on a finite planet, externalizations that go around come around). Once the obstructionist elite get out of the way, I have no doubt that the rest of us can come up with innovative responses to these dire times. Locally-sourced food eaten in season, organic and GMO-free agriculture, community gardens and family farms, crop rotation and water management, cattle pasturage and open-range grazing, regenerative farming and reverse desertification, farmers markets and food co-ops, etc — these are the kinds of things that will save the world, assuming we aren’t already too late.
A local diet including animal foods will be a thousand times better for the planetary biosphere than turning all of earth’s available land into big ag industrial farming in order to support a plant-based diet. Even in the EAT-Lancet report, they agree that “animal production can also be essential for supporting livelihoods, grassland ecosystem services, poverty alleviation, and benefits of nutritional status.” They even go so far as to add that this is true “particularly in children and vulnerable populations.” Wondering about this dilemma, Barry Pearson states it bluntly: “Eliminating all people who EAT-Lancet isn’t suitable for, who is left? So far list of people it isn’t suitable for appears to include: Children. Old people. Pregnant or potentially pregnant women. People with diabetes. Has anyone identified a list of who it IS suitable for?” And Georgia Ede makes the same point, adding some to the list: “Yet the authors themselves admit diets low in animal foods are unhealthy for babies, growing children, teenage girls, pregnant women, aging adults, the malnourished, and the poor, and that high-carbohydrate diets are risky for those w/ insulin resistance.” Despite this acknowledgement, the EAT-Lancet true believers largely dismiss all animal foods, which are the best sources of fat-soluble vitamins that Weston A. Price found were central to the healthiest populations. Somehow too much animal products are bad for you and the entire planet, not just red meat but also chicken, fish, eggs and dairy (anyway, why pick on red meat considering over the past century beef consumption has not risen in countries like the United States or in the world as a whole). Instead, we’re supposed to sustain ourselves on loads of carbs, as part of the decades of government-subsidized, chemically-doused, genetically-modified, and nutrient-depleted ‘Green Revolution’. That should make happy the CEOs and shareholders of big ag, some of the main corporate backers of EAT-Lancet’s global agenda. “Ultra-processed food manufacturers must scarcely believe their luck. They’ve been handed a massive rebranding opportunity free of charge, courtesy of the vegan desire for plant-based junk posing as dairy, meat, fish, and eggs” (Joanna Blythman).
What they don’t explain is how the world’s poor are supposed to eat this way. That is no minor detail being overlooked. Most of the population in the world and in many developed countries, including the United States, are poor. This idealized diet is presented as emphasizing fruits and vegetables. But in many poor countries, fruits and vegetables are more expensive than some animal foods. That is when they are available at all which is often not the case in the food deserts that so many of the poor are trapped in. The authors of the report do admit that animal foods might be increased slightly for many demographics — as Dr. Georgia Ede put it: “Although their diet plan is intended for all “generally healthy individuals aged two years and older,” the authors admit it falls short of providing proper nutrition for growing children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, aging adults, the malnourished, and the impoverished—and that even those not within these special categories will need to take supplements to meet their basic requirements.” It’s not clear what this means, as this admission goes against their general recommendations. The proposal is vague on details with neither food lists nor meal plans. And, oddly, the details shown don’t actually indicate greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, as the plant-based foods mostly consist of nutrient-deficient carbs (according to Optimising Nutrition’s Should you EAT Lancet?, the calorie breakdown should be: 70% plant-based including sweeteners; with 46% carbs; only 3% vegetables & 5% fruits; & a remarkable 5% for sweeteners, about equal to allowance of meat).
In the harsh criticism offered by Optimising Nutrition: “You would be forgiven if you thought from their promotional materials that they were promoting more vegetables. But it’s not actually the case! However, I admit they are promoting primarily a ‘plant based diet’ if you count corn, soy and wheat (grown using large scale agricultural practices, mono-cropping and large doses of fertilisers and chemical pesticides) and the oils that you can extract them as ‘plant based’.” I eat more actual vegetables (e.g., leafy greens) on my low-carb, high-fat and animal-based paleo diet than is being recommended in the EAT-Lancet report. Just because a diet is ‘plant-based’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy, considering most processed foods consist of plant-based ingredients with most junk food being entirely vegan (potato chips, crackers, cookies, candy, pop, etc). Even commercial whole wheat breads with some fiber and vitamins added back in to the denatured flour are basically junk food with good marketing. Heck, partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup are both plant-based, not to mention the soy added into so many products. The EAT-Lancet diet is basically a fancied up version of the Standard American Diet (SAD), as it has fallen in line with decades of a Food Pyramid with carbs as the base and an emphasis on unhealthy seed oils — more from Optimising Nutrition:
“The thing that struck me was the EAT Lancet dietary guidance seems to largely be an extension of the current status quo that is maximising profits for the food industry and driving us to eat more than we need to. Other than the doubling down on the recommendation to reduce red meat and eggs, it largely seems like business-as-usual for the food industry. With Walter Willett at the helm, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that this looks and feels like an extension of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for the whole world, complete with talk of United Nations level sanctions to prevent excess meat consumption. […] [I]t’s the added fats and oils (mostly from unsaturated fats) as well as flours and cereals (from rice, wheat and corn) that have exploded in our food system and tracked closely with the rise in obesity. The EAT Lancet guidelines will ensure that this runaway trend continues!”
The report, though, isn’t entirely worthless for it does correctly point out some of the problems we face, specifically as part of a global crisis. But it most definitely is confusing and internally conflicted. Even if it genuinely were a diet high in healthy produce, it’s not clear why the dismissal of all animal foods, including eggs and dairy that are enjoyed by most vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. If the issue is feeding the world with highly nutritious and healthy foods, it’s hard to beat an egg for cost effectiveness and it accomplishes this without need for the kind of subsidization we see with high-yield crops; and pasture-raised eggs would be even better for health, environment, and ethics. When I was poor (or rather more poor), I survived on eggs with the expensive ingredient being the few frozen vegetables I threw in for balance and variety. Eggs are filling, both satisfying and satiating. Also, they make for a quick and easy meal, an advantage for the working poor with limited time and energy. For any poor person with a small patch of land, you’d do more good for their diet give them an egg-laying hen so that they could produce their own nutritious food without any need for a factory farm. There are already similar programs to give milk-producing goats to rural families in poor countries.
We are being told, though, that eggs are part of what is destroying the world and so they must be severely limited, if not entirely eliminated, for the good of humanity or else the good of the earth. “While eggs are no longer thought to increase risk of heart disease, Willett said the report recommends limiting them because studies indicate a breakfast of whole grains, nuts and fruit would be healthier” (Candice Choi). So, there is nothing unhealthy about eggs, but since they are made of protein and fat, we should eat more carbs and sugar instead — “According to EAT Lancet, you can eat 8 tsp of sugar but only 1/4 egg per day” (Nina Teicholz). After all, everyone knows that American health has improved over the decades as more carbs and sugar were eaten… no, wait, it’s the complete opposite with worsening health. That is plain fucked up! Explain to me again why eggs, one of the cheapest and healthiest food sources, are being targeted as a danger to human existence in somehow contributing or linked to overpopulation, environmental destruction, and climate change. What exactly is the connection? Am I missing something?
Whatever the explanation, eating less of such things as eggs, we are supposed to eat more of such things as vegetables, at least in taking at face value how this diet is being sold, if ignoring the inconvenient details. Let’s pretend for a moment that the Eat-Lancet diet is accurately described as largely oriented toward fruits and vegetables and that, as a sweeping recommendation, this is fully justified. Consider that, as Diana Rodgers explains, “Fresh produce is not grown year round in all locations, not available to everyone, and by calorie, weight, and micronutrients, more expensive than meat. Oh, and lettuce has three times the GHG emissions of bacon and fruit has the largest water and energy footprint per calorie. I didn’t see this mentioned in the EAT Lancet report.” We forget that our relatively cheaper vegetables in the West, although often more expensive than many animal foods, are actually rather uncommon for much of the world, excluding starchy plant foods that are more widely available.
We only have such a broad variety of inexpensive plant foods here in the West because its part of the government-subsidization (direct and indirect) of high-yield farming, which by the way has simultaneously depleted our soil and, as a consequence, produced nutrient-deficient food. Also, there is the American Empire’s neoliberally-rationalized and militarily-protected ‘free trade’ agreements that have ensured cheap produce from around the world, but this simultaneously makes these foods often out of reach for the impoverished foreign populations that actually grow the produce. I might be fine with subsidizing vegetables and much else, but I’d rather see the subsidization of sustainable farming in general that promotes nutrient-dense foods, far from limited to plants. Anyway, how is telling poor people to eat more expensive and, in some cases, problematic foods going to help the world’s population that is struggling with poverty and inequality?
“And what are the things individuals can do to reduce their carbon footprint?,” as also brought up by Rodgers. “According to a recent meta-analysis, having one less child (in industrialized nations), which was shown by far to have the biggest impact, followed by living “car-free”, avoiding one round-trip trans-Atlantic flight, and buying “green” energy have much more of an effect on our carbon footprint than our dietary choices.” Most people in the West are already having fewer children. And most people in the rest of the world already live without cars. We know that the birthrate goes down when life conditions are improved and this is already being observed, but this dietary regime would worsen life conditions through austerity politics and so would make people feel more desperate than they already are. As for transportation, many things could lessen the externalized costs of that, from well-funded public transportation to increased local farming: “New research from the University of California also recently concluded that grasslands are an even better and more resilient carbon storage option than trees.” (Danielle Smith, If you care about the planet, eat more beef); “These multiple research efforts verify that practical organic agriculture, if practiced on the planet’s 3.5 billion tillable acres, could sequester nearly 40 percent of current CO2 emissions” (Tim J. LaSalle & Paul Hepperly, Regenerative Organic Farming); see also this Ted Talk by Allan Savory and this paper.
Cattle aren’t the problem, considering that the earth for hundreds of millions of years has supported large numbers of ruminants without pollution, erosion, or any other problems. The United States maintains fewer cows than there were buffalo in the past and furthermore: “Ruminant herds have been a feature of our ecosystem since before the fall of the dinosaurs. Yes, they produce methane (so do we), but the atmosphere is accustomed to that level of methane. I can’t find data on total global animal biomass trends, but as the population of humans and domesticated animals has increased, so populations of wild animals (and particularly megafauna) has decreased. What is concerning is releases of methane that has been sequestered from the atmosphere over thousands or millions of years – melting permafrost, drained peatbogs and swamp forests. Methane is a significant greenhouse gas. But to get back to where we started, methane is a natural component of the atmosphere; the carbon from farts comes from the food that is eaten and is recycled as new food that grows; there is no evidence that I’m aware of that the total volume of farting is increasing.” (Simon Brooke). An accurate and amusing assessment. More mass industrial farming to support this top-down dietary scheme from EAT-Lancet would require more mass transportation and inevitably would create more pollution, along with environmental harm. One has to be insane or ill-informed to believe this is the solution or else one has to be well-paid by self-serving interests to claim to believe it.
One might note that EAT-Lancet is specifically partnered with big biz, including big ag companies such as Monsanto that has poisoned the world’s population with Roundup (i.e., glyphosate), and understand that big ag is among the most powerful interests in the US considering our country’s wealth was built on agriculture (a great example being the wealth of the plutocratic and corporatist Koch brothers whose wealth in part came from manufacturing fertilizer). Other companies involved are those developing meat alternatives produced from the industrially-farmed crops of big ag. And big ag is dependent on big oil for production of farm chemicals. EAT Foundation president and founder, Gunhild Stordalen, has been noted as a significant figure in the oil industry (Lars Taraldsen, ONS 2014 conference program to feature oil industry heavy hitters). But don’t worry about how this carb-laden diet of processed foods will harm your health with the majority of the American population (almost 9 out of 10) already some combination of insulin resistant, pre-diabetic, and diabetic — they’ve got this covered: “The drug company Novo Nordisk supports Eat-Lancet. Smart. Insulin is 85% of their revenue” (P. D. Mangan). I’m beginning to see a pattern here in the vested interests behind this proposal: “Eat lancet sponsors. Chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies (mostly making diabetes meds), the world’s biggest pasta manufacturer, the world biggest seed oil supplier, the world’s biggest breakfast cereal supplier” (David Wyant); “Pesticides, fertilisers, #gm (Bayer/Monsanto, BASF, Syngenta); sugar+fake flavourings/colourings (PepsiCo, Nestle, Givaudin, Symrise); ultraprocessed grains/starches (Cargill, Kellogg’s);#palmoil (Olam); additives and enzymes (DSM)- companies backing #EatLancet diet. I wonder why?” (Joanna Blythman).
Just to throw out a crazy idea, maybe the neo-fascist tyranny of transnational mega-corporations is the problem, not the answer. “Just think about it. EAT Lancet is the processed food industry telling us that eating more processed food is good for our health & planet. That’s like oil industry stating burn more fossil fuel will save planet. Vested interests think we are that gullible?”, in the words of Gary Fettke, an outspoken surgeon who (like John Yudkin and Tim Noakes) was bullied and harassed when challenging the powers that be, for the crime of advising an evidence-based low-carb/sugar diet. “This Poison Cartel of companies,” writes Vandana Shiva in reference to the corporate alliance behind EAT-Lancet, “have together contributed up to 50% Green house gases leading to climate change, and the chronic disease epidemic related to chemicals in food, loss in diversity in the diet, industrially processed junk food, and fake food.” The Lancet Journal itself, from a new report, is now warning of us the exact same thing, in that many corporate sectors (including those backing EAT-Lancet) receive $5 trillion in government subsidies: “Big Food’s obstructive power is further enhanced by governance arrangements that legitimize industry participation in public policy development” (Swinburn et al, The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change).
The whole health and sustainability claim is a red herring. The EAT-Lancet commissioners and others of their ilk don’t feel they have to justify their position, not really. They throw out some halfhearted rationalizations, but they fall apart under casual scrutiny. Furthermore, there is far from being a consensus among the experts. The Associated Press offered some dissenting voices, such as “John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford University, said he welcomed the growing attention to how diets affect the environment, but that the report’s recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health.” Ioannidis, a non-partisan researcher in dietary debates, was quoted as saying, “The evidence is not as strong as it seems to be.” That is to put it mildly. We are in the middle of a replication crisis in numerous fields of science and, as Ioannidis has shown, food-related research is among the worse. When he says the evidence is not strong enough, people should pay attention. ““There are few exceptions, but the status of epidemiological literature is not at a level to allow us to make these types of very detailed, specific recommendations,” Ioannidis tells me. For that reason, the health claims in the EAT-Lancet diet are “science fiction. I can’t call it anything else”” (Sam Bloch, World Health Organization drops its high-profile endorsement of the EAT-Lancet diet).
For emphasis, consider what kind of scientists are involved in this project. The lead researcher and author behind the EAT-Lancet report is Walter Willett, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department. He was recently rebuked in science journal Nature (editorial and feature article) for his unscientific behavior. Willett has many potential conflicts of interest with, according to Nina Teicholz, “many 100Ks in funding by a host of companies selling/promoting plant-based diet.” This is the guy, by the way, who inherited the mantle from Ancel Keys, an ‘honor’ that some would consider very low praise, as Keys too has regularly been accused of a sloppy and bullying approach to diet and nutrition. Willett is particularly misinformed about what is a healthy fat in his blaming saturated fat on the same flimsy evidence going back to Ancel Keys, but back in a 2004 Frontline interview from PBS he did make the surprising admission that it was carbs and not fat driving the disease epidemic:
“Well, the food guide pyramid that was developed in 1991 really is based on the idea that all fat is bad. Therefore [if] fat is bad, and you have to eat something, carbohydrate must be wonderful. So the base of the pyramid is really emphasizing large amounts of starch in the diet. We’re told we can eat up to 11 servings a day, and if that wasn’t enough starch, the pyramid puts potatoes along with the vegetables, so you can have up to 13 servings a day. That’s a huge amount of starch. […] Fat’s up at the top of the pyramid, and where it says explicitly “fats and oils, use sparingly.” It doesn’t make any distinction about the type of fat, and it tells us to eat basically as little as possible. […] Well, this pyramid is really not compatible with good scientific evidence, and it was really out of date from the day it was printed in 1991, because we knew, and we’ve known for 30 or 40 years that the type of fat is very important. That was totally neglected. […]
“In some ways, we do have to credit the food industry with being responsive to what nutritionists were saying. They did believe or accepted the evidence that vegetable fats, vegetable oils, would be better than animal fats, and that really led to the development and promotion of the margarine industry and Crisco, baking fats that were made from vegetable oils. But they were made by a process called partial hydrogenation, which converts a liquid oil, say like soybean oil or corn oil, to something like margarine or vegetable shortening. As it turns out that was a very disastrous mistake, because in the process of partial hydrogenation, a totally new type of fat is formed called trans fat. The evidence has now become very clear that trans fat is far worse than saturated fat. […] Unfortunately, as a physician back in the 1980s, I was telling people that they should replace butter with margarine because it was cholesterol free, and professional organizations like the American Heart Association were telling us as physicians that we should be promoting this. In reality, there was never any evidence that these margarines, that were high in trans fat, were any better than butter, and as it turned out, they were actually far worse than butter.”
In 2010, Walter Willett is again quoted in The Los Angeles Times declaring this same message in no uncertain terms: “Fat is not the problem […] If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases” (Marni Jameson, A reversal on carbs). He has been defending this consistent message for a while now. Why this sudden turnabout in defense of carbs by blaming fats once again? Is he just following the money as a scientific mercenary for hire to the highest bidder?
Considering animal fats are among the most nutrient-dense foods available, let me return to nutrient-density in my concluding thoughts. Feeding the whole world is the easy part. But if we want humanity, all of humanity, to thrive and not merely survive, this is what it comes down to — as I previously wrote (A Food Revolution Worthy of the Name!): “We don’t need to grow more food to feed the world but to grow better food to nourish everyone at least to a basic level, considering how many diseases even in rich countries are caused by nutrient deficiencies,” even as Westerners are eating too much, “(e.g., Dr. Terry Wahls reversed multiple sclerosis symptoms in her self, in patients, and in clinical subjects through increasing nutrient-density). The same amount of food produced, if nutrient-dense, could feed many more people. We already have enough food and will continue to have enough food for the foreseeable future. That of equal and fair distribution of food is a separate issue. The problem isn’t producing a greater quantity for what we desperately need is greater quality. But that is difficult because our industrial farming has harmed the health of the soil and denatured our food supply.” Animal foods, of course, are the most nutritious foods available, not to mention the most concentrated source of calories.
From that piece, I suggested that nutrient-density, especially if combined with low-carb, might decrease food consumption worldwide. In comparing locally-raised meat versus mass-transported produce, Frédéric Leroy made a related argument: “When protein quality is factored in, the data show a completely different picture. Assessments usually overlook nutrient density. Expressing environmental impact per unit of mass (g) has little sense, we should care about *nutrition* not quantity.” And for damn sure, it would improve health for those already eating so little. As I wrote, “What if we could feed more people with less land? And what if we could do so in a way that brought optimal and sustainable health to individuals, society, and the earth? Now that would be a food revolution worthy of the name!” This is very much an issue of inequality, as at least some of the EAT-Lancet commissioners acknowledge — Dr. Lawrence Haddad says, “Most conflict is driven by inequality, or at least a sense of inequality. Work by UNICEF and others shows that inequality in terms of malnutrition is actually rising faster within countries than it is between countries. So inequality within countries in terms of things like stunting and anaemia is either not improving or is actually worsening – and we know that inequality is a big driver of violence conflict.”
The EAT-Lancet report itself mentions this in passing, mostly limited to a single paragraph: “Wars and disasters cause food insecurity and highlight the issues faced when nutrition is inadequate and food becomes scarce. Wars and natural disasters also provide opportunities from which the food system can be transformed. However, only at the end of World War 2 was a global effort and commitment introduced to redirect the food system.258 New institutions were created or revised at the global level such as WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and World Bank, which allied with new and renewed national Ministries of agriculture and health to stop pre-war food problems caused by market distortions, environmentally-damaging farming, and social inequalities.259 However, the negative consequences of the post-war food revolution are now becoming increasingly clear (ie, negative environmental and health consequences, as outlined in this Commission).”
I’ll give them credit for bringing it up at all, however inadequately. They do admit that our food system has failed. That makes it all the more unfortunate that, in many ways, they are demanding more of the same. As others have noted, the diet they have fashioned for the world is severely lacking in nutrition. And they offer no convincing suggestions in how to reverse the problem of malnutrition. It won’t help to eat more plant-based foods, if they are grown through chemical-dependent high-yield farming that is depleting the soil of minerals and killing earthworms, microbes, etc: “Veganism is a huge misinterpretation of what a responsible diet might look like. It fully supports and exacerbates industrial farming of grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables through high inputs, maximising yields at all costs and depleting soils.” (Cassie Robinson). The idea of nutrient-dense foods as part of traditional farming and healthy soil is simply not on the radar of mainstream thought, especially not within our corporatist system. That is because the largest portion of the most nutrient-dense foods don’t come from plants (especially not high-profit monoculture crops) and, furthermore, aren’t compliant with the present industrial agriculture and food production of profitable big ag.
That isn’t to say we should necessarily be eating massive amounts of meat, as opposed to eating more eggs and dairy, but animal foods have been the key element to every healthy population. In fact, compared to the United States, the top two longest-living countries in the world (Hong Kong and Japan) eat more animal foods by some accounting, including lots of red meat. According to Dr. Paul Saladino, the average lifespan of the Hong Kong resident is 85 and their average meat consumption is a pound and a half; and he puts that into the context that research on Asian populations show that people eating more meat are healthier (see video and transcript). That said, Americans are probably ahead of those two countries on dairy foods, which taken together is an argument for animal-based diets. Even among vegetarians, the healthiest are those with access to high quality dairy and eggs, along with those eating food from traditional farming that includes many insects and soil microbes mixed in with what is grown (the latter was shown in a study that vegetarians in a region of India were healthier than in another, and the difference was the unintentional insects in the diet from traditional pesticide-free farming). In the above linked video, Dr. Paul Saladino was talking to Dr. Steven Gundry who mentioned that primates in the wild intentionally seek out fruit that is bug-infested and will otherwise throw it away, as they are looking for protein.
None of that, as far as I can tell, is discussed in the EAT-Lancet report. The authors offer no helpful advice, no long-term vision that can move us in a positive direction. Their ideology is getting ahead of the science. A sense of urgency is important. But impatience, especially the EAT Foundation’s self-described “impatient disruption”, won’t serve us well. It was careless hubris that got us here. It’s time we learn to respect the precautionary principle, to think carefully before collectively acting or rather before the ruling elite goes forward with yet another harebrained scheme. If as a society we want to direct our sense of urgency toward where it counts, that wouldn’t be hard to do: “World: Stop wasting a third of the food produced. Stop wrapping it in needless packaging. Stop transporting food half way round the world. Stop selling food at below-cost prices. Stop undercutting our produce with low standard alternatives. Then I’ll discuss how much meat I eat” (David Hill). It would mean drastically transforming our political and economic system. Capitalism and corporatism, as we know it, must end for the sake of humanity and the planet.
As a member of the ‘liberal’ class of paternalistic elites, Gunhild Stordalen (founder and president of EAT Foundation) knows how to say the right things. Listen to how she sets up this brilliant piece of rhetoric: “What we eat and how we produce it drives some of our greatest health and environmental challenges. On the other hand, getting it right on food is our greatest opportunity to improve the health of people and planet. This will require concerted action across disciplines and sectors – and business will be a key part of the solution.” Much of it sounds nice, too nice. But the only part of that statement that was honest was the last bit. All one should hear is “Blah, blah, blah… and business will be a key part of the solution.” And she isn’t referring to small family farms, mom-and-pop grocery stores, and local co-ops. This is a corporatist vision of concentrated wealth and power. These people are serious about remaking the world in their own image. As Anand Giridharadas put it in another context: “Elites, he wrote, have found myriad ways to “change things on the surface so that in practice nothing changes at all”. The people with the most to lose from genuine social change have placed themselves in charge of social change – often with the passive assent of those most in need of it.” No thanks! We don’t need a corporate-owned nanny state telling us what to do.
If scientific and political institutions weren’t being manipulated, if the corporate media weren’t used to propagandize the citizenry and manage public perception, and if powerful interests weren’t spreading disinfo and division, it would be a lot easier for we the people to become an informed local and global (i.e., glocal) citizenry able to figure out how to democratically solve our own problems. We could even figure out how feed ourselves for health and sustainability. Despite it all, that is what we’re working toward. None of this is to attack the average vegan, vegetarian, or other plant-based advocate who sincerely is seeking a better world and taking personal actions they believe matter. Even if for those of us who disagree with their evidence and methods, we can wholeheartedly support their ethical and environmental intentions. Most of these people are leftists and liberals, as am I and many others. Our disagreement is not necessarily based on social, economic, and political ideology. But we should be worried that good intentions, along with rhetoric, have been co-opted by reactionary forces that use them to greenwash powerful and dangerous interests that are anti-leftist, anti-egalitarian, and anti-democratic. We often should support these grassroots advocates and activists in their overall goals that we might share. They aren’t our enemies. Rather than further getting pulled into false divide and conquer tactics (leftist vegans vs right-wing carnivores), we need to reach out to others in creating a populist movement that will be a powerful counter-force.
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A truly effective global solution to the problem of human nutrition and environmental impact must be replicable, transparent, and supported with correct quantification of its impact. Unfortunately, the report did not meet these criteria.
What Experts Are Saying
It’s shocking that after years of promoting a groundbreaking report, EAT-Lancet’s own analysis shows the Commission’s recommended diet has almost no environmental benefit over business-as-usual scenarios. While EAT-Lancet claims its reference diet would decrease greenhouse gas emissions, the Commission’s fundamentally flawed data fail to account for methane reduction that occurs naturally, as methane remains in the atmosphere for only 10 years. The carbon emissions from all the flights required for the Commission’s global launch tour will have a much longer impact than that of methane from livestock animals
Frank Mitloehner, PhD, UC Davis
Meat and dairy are easily the most nutrient-dense foods available to humans. [The recommendations… are not only unrealistic but potentially dangerous for healthy diets…
Jason Rowntree, Associate Professor, Animal Science Department, Michigan State University
Human beings, especially as we age, cannot do without protein. The EAT-Lancet Commission’s recommendation to cut beef consumption to just a quarter ounce per day (7g) is a drastic departure from evidence showing meat and dairy improve diets.
Stuart Phillips, Professor; Director, Physical Activity Centre of Excellence. McMaster University, Canada.
The report’s recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health. The evidence is not as strong as it seems to be.
John Ioannidis, MD, Stanford University
The cornerstone of a healthy diet is still meat and dairy. Take those out and you’ll have under-nutrition and frailty. It’s unavoidable.
Andrew Mente, PhD, Associate Professor & Nutrition Epidemiologist, Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University
The #EatLancet Commission work does not reflect consensus among scientists. We need to invest in research to inform dialogue on what is healthy and sustainable. We should not base recommendations based on assumptions and 40+ year old confounded cohorts. Scientists must stop making premature recommendations based on opinion and weak data like in the past (e.g., eggs and fat). Unintended consequences happen folks. Let’s not make the same mistake twice!
Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., George Mason University
What start as academic and scientific debates become political arguments that are dangerously simplistic and may have several detrimental consequences for both health and the environment. Of course, climate change is real and does require our attention. And, yes, livestock should be optimized but also be used as part of the solution to make our environments and food systems more sustainable and our populations healthier. But instead of undermining the foundations of our diets and the livelihoods of many, we should be tackling rather than ignoring the root causes, in particular hyperconsumerism. What we should avoid is losing ourselves in slogans, nutritional scientism, and distorted worldviews
To confine all our attention in eliminating animal-source food (#meat, #eggs, #milk) in our diet as solution to climate change is to limit human ability to solve challenges. Options’re available to abate impacts of livestock through investment
Aimable Uwizeye, Global Livestock expert, Veterinarian Doctor & PhD Fellow
As a cardiologist, I’ve made healthy lifestyle recommendations to thousands of patients, and it is clear that the best lifestyle is one people can actually maintain over the long term. It turns out that animal protein and fat are uniquely satiating — thus keeping hunger at bay — and therefore a friend to any dieter. It is lamentable that the EAT-Lancet authors should want to impose their ideas about healthy diets on all populations worldwide.
Bret Scher, MD
This is what the new EAT Lancet report remind me of. After years of abject failure with ‘plant based’, low fat, low calorie diets for metabolic health, they know they’re going to succeed with the same advice. Insanity, literally
Jason Fung, MD
Note that eating 0 grams of meat/seafood/poultry/eggs/dairy is supported, meaning vegan diets are officially sanctioned. Epidemiology choosing ideology over biology once again. No real science here
Georgia Ede, MD
The environmental science is as murky, unevenly applied & ideologically driven as the nutrition science. There isn’t a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution to “healthy diet” or “sustainable food system” because we are dealing with situated, idiosyncratic contexts in each case
Adele Hite, PhD
You’ll be short of calcium, iron, potassium, D3, K2, retinol, B12, sodium if you adopt EAT Lancet diet. It’s nutritionally deficient. Irresponsible!
Zoe Harcombe, Ph.D.
Those who feel that meat eaters are as bad as smokers and should eat their meals outside of the restaurant are obviously not coming from a place of reason and should be removed from decisions involving dietary policy.
Diana Rogers, RD
What concerns me is that people will give this report the same weight as Dietary Guidelines that go through years of discussion, must be based on scientific evidence, analysis and vetting by a team of experts that have to disclose COI – unlike this report.
Leah McGrath, RD
I work as a renal RD, & so I experience daily the actual impact pseudoscience like the #EATLancet study can have on society. It’s nonsense like this that has caused so many of my patients to fear meat—which improves clinical outcomes—more than highly processed foods.
Mike Shelby, RD
There are no Controlled Trials proving the EAT-Lancet [recommendations] are safe for humans to eat long-term! #yes2meat
Ken Berry, MD
Unfortunately, quantity of evidence does not equate to quality – especially in the diet/health arena.
Sean Mark, PhD
The #EATLancet diet: Nearly eliminates foods with important nutrients (dairy and all other products from animal origin). Will lead to an increase consumption of calories. Will have similar impact on climate change.
Maria Sanchez Mainar, PhD
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The Big Fat Surprise
by Nina Teicholz
“We Cannot Afford to Wait”
In the late 1970s in America, the idea that a plant-based diet might be the best for health as well as the most historically authentic was just entering the popular consciousness. Active efforts to demonize saturated fat had been underway for more than fifteen years by that time, and we’ve seen how the McGovern committee’s staff were in short order persuaded by these ideas. Even so, the draft report that Mottern wrote for the McGovern committee sparked an uproar—predictably—from the meat, dairy, and egg producers. They sent representatives to McGovern’s office and insisted that he hold additional hearings. Under pressure from these lobbies, McGovern’s staff carved out an exception for lean meats, which Americans could be advised to eat. Thus, Dietary Goals recommended that Americans increase poultry and fish while cutting back on red meat, butterfat, eggs, and whole milk. In the language of macronutrients, this meant advising Americans to reduce total fat, saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, sugar, and salt while increasing carbohydrate consumption to between 55 percent and 60 percent of daily calories.
While Mottern would have liked the final report to advise against meat altogether, some of the senators on the committee were not so unequivocally confident about their ability to weigh in on matters of nutritional science. The ranking minority member, Charles H. Percy from Illinois, wrote in the final Dietary Goals report that he and two other senators had “serious reservations” about the “divergence of scientific opinion on whether dietary change can help the heart.” They described the “polarity” of views among well-known scientists such as Jerry Stamler and Pete Ahrens and noted that leaders in government, including no less than the head of the NHLBI as well as the undersecretary of health, Theodore Cooper, had urged restraint before making recommendations to the general public.
Yet this hesitation turned out to be too little too late to stop the momentum that Mottern’s report had set in motion. Dietary Goals revived the same argument that Keys and Stamler had used before: that now was the time to take action on an urgent public health problem. “We cannot afford to await the ultimate proof before correcting trends we believe to be detrimental,” said the Senate report.
So it was that Dietary Goals , compiled by one interested layperson, Mottern, without any formal review, became arguably the most influential document in the history of diet and disease. Following publication of Dietary Goals by the highest elective body in the land, an entire government and then a nation swiveled into gear behind its dietary advice. “It has stood the test of time, and I feel very proud of it, as does McGovern,” Marshall Matz, general counsel of the McGovern committee, told me thirty years later.
Proof of the report’s substantiality, according to Matz, is that its basic recommendations—to reduce saturated fat and overall fat while increasing carbohydrates—have endured down to today. But such logic is circular. What if the US Congress had said exactly the opposite: to eat meat and eggs and nothing else? Perhaps that advice, supported by the power of the federal government, would have lived on equally well. In the decades since the publication of Dietary Goals , Americans have seen the obesity and diabetes epidemics explode—a hint, perhaps, that something is wrong with our diet. Based on these facts, the government might have deemed it appropriate to reconsider these goals, but it has nevertheless stayed the course because governments are governments, the least nimble of institutions, and unable easily to change direction.
* * *
One hundred and eleven years ago a scientist in St. Petersberg Russia fed rabbits meat, eggs, and dairy. Not unexpectedly for a herbivorous animal, it built up in the blood vessels. It also built up in the ligaments, the tendons, the muscles, and everywhere else in the rabbits body without any evolved mechanism for excretion. This yellow goop in the rabbit’s aortas looked just like human atherosclerosis, which had only been described four years earlier. This started science down a misguided pathway of focusing on fat as the cause of hardening of the arteries. A pathway that future historians will likely call the greatest tragedy in terms of years of life lost in the history of humanity.
Initially it was eating cholesterol that was blamed for causing of hardening of the arteries. Then in the 1950s an American physiologist, who had such an affinity for hard compacted refined carbohydrates that he designed soldiers rations featuring it, expanded the blame from cholesterol to all fat, especially animal fat. Carbohydrates should be increased and fat excluded, that was the battle cry! In the 1970s this unproven theory drew the attention of the US senate, and within a few short years blaming fat for atherosclerosis became a worldwide revolution. This time period, interesting, also marks the beginning of the obesity epidemic that has gripped the world’s developed countries. Tragically, what everyone seemed to have missed was the fact that there was no conclusive scientific evidence for this theory, and over time much of that thinking has actually been proven wrong. I have little doubt that issuing these guidelines without conclusive scientific evidence will eventually be viewed as the most significant blunder in the history of science.
I am an ICU doctor. I see the carnage that this cavalier and misguided attitude towards food guidelines has caused every single day, up close and personal. The tears of families suffering loss. The premature death of those who should have had long lives. Parents burying their adult sons and daughters. Atherosclerosis, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, when grouped together represent the top conditions for admission to adult ICUs everywhere on earth where our unhealthy Western Diet is consumed. And approximately one in five don’t survive their ICU stay. But what makes me the most angry is the fact that those people who draft these misguided non-scientific food guidelines, with their biased agendas and misrepresented studies, sit in government offices and ivory towers completely remote from the devastating impact of their work. Is it any wonder that the doctors of the world represent a large portion of those leading the charge against our current misguided food guidelines. Doctors are not remote to the problem or blind to the devastation. It is here every single day at work.
This has to stop. Food guidelines need to be based on rigorous science. How many more thousands of people have to die.
Enough is enough.
* * *
* * *
Lancet Partners With Poison Makers to Give Food Advice
by Joseph Mercola
The veganism boom does more for food company profits than the planet
Merryn Somerset Webb
The vegan craze is a self-serving corporate con
by Jamie Blackett
Food Industry Giants Invest $4 Million In Vegan Research
by Jemima Webber
Billionaire Vegan Tells Us all How to Eat
by Tim Rees
Letter to Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen
by Angela A. Stanton
Majority of EAT-Lancet Authors (>80%) Favored Vegan/Vegetarian Diets
by Nina Teicholz
How vegan evangelists are propping up the ultra-processed food industry
by Joanna Blythman
2019 The Year Vegan Pseudo-Science Goes Mainstream?
by Afifah Hamilton
Eat Lancet, a template for sustaining irony
by Stefhan Gordon
Does Lancet want to hand control of our diets to the state?
by Kate Andrews
Tax, ban, regulate: the radical ‘planetary health diet’ explained
by Christopher Snowden
Lies Lying Liars Tell
by Tom Naughton
EAT-Lancet Report is One-sided, Not Backed by Rigorous Science
by The Nutrition Coalition
Scientific Evidence on Red Meat and Health
by The Nutrition Coalition
Farmers have a beef with plant- or lab-grown ‘meat.’ Should you care?
by Laurent Belsie
If you care about the planet, eat more beef
by Danielle Smith
Why Eating Meat Is Good for You
by Chris Kresser
EAT-Lancet recommends slashing red meat consumption by 90%
by Amanda Radke
Report: Cut red-meat eating by 80 percent to save the planet?
by Anne Mullens and Bret Scher
Is the vegan health halo fading?
by Shan Goodwin
Two-pager Scientific Evidence on Red Meat and Health
from The Nutrition Coalition
A view on the meat debate
by Richard Young
War Against Red Meat
by Angela A. Stanton
I think you’ll find it’s a little bit more complicated than that…
by Malcolm Tucker
Why we should resist the vegan putsch
by Joanna Blythman
Scrutinise the small print of Eat-Lancet
by Joanna Blythman
EAT-Lancet Meets Rev. Malthus
by Sally Fallon Morrell
Sally Fallon Morell Addresses the EAT-Lancet Diet Dietary Recommendations
from Weston A. Price Foundation
The EAT Lancet report recommends a diet that is ostensibly better for the planet & our health. In one simple IG post,…
from Weston A. Price Foundation
The EAT Lancet diet is nutritionally deficient
by Zoë Harcombe
EAT-Lancet Diet – inadequate protein for older adults
by Joy Kiddie
EAT-Lancet report’s recommendations are at odds with sustainable food production
by Sustainable Food Trust
War on burgers continues with false environmental impact claims
by Amanda Radke
Sorry, But Giving Up on Meat Is Not Going to Save The Planet
by Frank M. Mitloehner
EAT-Lancet’s environmental claims are an epic fail. And the Commission knows it.
by Frank M. Mitloehner
20 Ways EAT Lancet’s Global Diet is Wrongfully Vilifying Meat
by Diana Rodgers
What’s right and what’s wrong about the EAT Lancet Diet
by Defending Beef
FAO sets the record straight–86% of livestock feed is inedible by humans
by Susan MacMillan
Red meat bounds down the carbon neutral path
by Shan GoodwinShan Goodwin
Can cows cause more climate change than cars?
by Frédéric Leroy
A Vegan Diet Is Less Efficient For The Planet Than An Omnivorous One
by Charlie Sorrel
The EAT-Lancet Commission’s controversial campaign
by Frédéric Leroy and Martin Cohen
Why we shouldn’t all be vegan
by Frédéric Leroy and Martin Cohen
Considerations on the EAT-Lancet Commission Report
from CARNI Sostenibili
The Eat-Lancet Commission: The World’s Biggest Lie
by Angela A. Stanton
Is the EAT-Lancet (Vegan) Rule-Book Hijacking Our Health?
by Belinda Fettke
EAT-Lancet’s Plant-based Planet: 10 Things You Need to Know
by Georgia Ede
Should you EAT Lancet?
from Optimising Nutrition
Media Myth Crusher
Climate, Food, Facts
from Animal Agriculture Alliance
from Animal Agriculture Alliance
What the experts are saying…
from Animal Agriculture Alliance
Press release on the launch of the EAT-Lancet Commission Report on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems (Geneva, 28 March 2019)
from Italian government, official statement given to the United Nations
I made an evidence-based anti-vegan copypasta. Is there anything important missing?
by u/BoarstWurst, r/Antivegan Reddit (thorough summary of info)