Why plant-based diets are good for human and planetary health

In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission developed the world’s first scientific guidelines for healthy and sustainable diets. Co-authored by Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Commission’s findings called for global cooperation and commitment to shift diets toward healthy, largely plant-based patterns.

In a January 9, 2021 interview in the Times of India, Willett discussed why the Commission found that diets that are largely plant-based and low in red meat are the best way to feed a global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050.

In their analysis, the researchers found that the global community could sustainably produce about two servings of animal-sourced foods per person per day—including one serving of dairy and another of red meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Said Willett, “If the amount of dairy or meat were to be increased much beyond these numbers, this would simply not be sustainable—and the ecological degradation involved would then threaten global food production.”

Willett also noted that almost all of the nutrients in animal proteins can be obtained in nutrient-rich plants, although some people may need a vitamin B-12 supplement. Reducing consumption of meat—especially red meat—may also lower risk of heart disease and other negative health outcomes, he said.

Read the Times of India article: ‘Life cycle analyses shows a plant-based diet is most nutritious with least environmental impacts’

Learn more

Food system transformation needed for human and planetary health (Harvard Chan School news)

Plate and the Planet (Harvard Chan School’s The Nutrition Source)