A vegan diet is also the healthiest for the environment!

Text and photos: Anna Plaszczyk

23 February 2019

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, appointed by the US government dieticians panel that helps in setting national dietary guidelines has issued a report recommending the Americans to eat less meat. In the 571-page report, the Committee concludes that the vegan diet has the least impact on the environment and it underlines that at the same time it has many potential health benefits. The report has provoked an outrage among the meat industry, in particular among the producers of beef, pork and poultry.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was created in 1983. This year the Committee, for the first time in its history, decided to take into account the factor of ecological balance in its report. It has stated that a diet without meat and animal products is not only healthier, but it has also less impact on the environment.The meat industry contends that the Committee has neither the power nor the knowledge to make such an assessment. It can be justified by its lack of knowledge about the complex issue of environmental protection, and that is why the dieticians have no right to express their opinion.

- Because we encourage the Americans to eat more seafood, we want to look at this recommendation in a broader perspective - explains Barbara Millen, president of the advisory committee and professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. In response to the allegations concerning the lack of knowledge on sustainable development, Millen points out that the Commission has invited outstanding specialists in this field to cooperate in preparing the report.

The report highlights that our diet has a significant impact on the environment. It includes among others greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water and energy consumption. Research of the Committee shows that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, or legumes, nuts and seafood is far healthier than a diet rich in meat, dairy products, alcohol and sugar-sweetened drinks or highly processed grains. After reviewing the research, the Commission has emphasized that a vegan diet has many potential health benefits.The report shows that people on a vegan diet have the lowest estimated impact on resources and the quality of the ecosystem. While, the greatest expected impact on the environment has the production of beef. It is also estimated that a large impact on the ecosystem have also: cheese, milk and seafood.
The Commissions report says that people should eat less red and processed meat, as it contains a lot of saturated fats that can lead to cardiovascular diseases. In return, it recommends to the Americans eating more vegetables and nuts.

But representatives of the meat industry say that the meat contains protein that helps people satisfy their hunger for a longer period of time. Although consumers are not obliged to strictly abide by the final guidelines of the Commission - these recommendations have an impact on federal programs such as school lunches, nutrition programs for pregnant women, infants and children and ... nutritional military rations.