The detrimental link between animal agriculture and public health is indisputable.

The global food system is broken. The Industrial agricultural model is not only the leading cause of biodiversity loss, but it’s rapidly becoming our biggest health threat as well. With chronic diseases on the rise and a clear link between global pandemics and the industrial meat industry, it is now critical that health professionals come together to highlight our increasingly unhealthy food system. We simply can’t sit by and wait for the burden of disease to rise any longer. 

As health professionals, we need to work together with food advocates, influencers and change agents to develop collaborative solutions that align with the best available dietary recommendations. 

This is why we formed the 50by40 Health Working Group.

We know that people care deeply about their health, and we want to collaborate to improve both public and professional awareness of the co-benefits of transforming what we farm, cook, and what we all eat.

Below are a range of initial health rationales we believe represent the starting points for a broader conversation around our food and our health. There is still much to discover in the field of nutrition, but we believe there is sufficient evidence to encourage not only healthier eating, but improved food policy. 

As our Working Group continues, we hope that other 50by40 partners and allies will use this research to back up their work with scientifically sound evidence. 

We also want to invite other health professionals and advocates to join our work.

All the rationales used in the document below are not comprehensive, but rather represent the most compelling health rationale statement backed by scientific evidence under that category. For a more detailed view of different health rationales and priority statements, please click here.

  1. Diet Composition and Dietary Patterns: Whole food, plant-forward diets have health benefits and create fewer adverse health effects than diets with excessive red/processed meat. Overall meat reduction as part of a whole-food, plant-forward diet, especially among people who regularly consume red and processed meat, is associated with lower risks of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, and premature death.

  2. Alternative Products: Meat alternatives can be made from plant-proteins (soy, wheat, pea, mycoprotein) that are free of dietary cholesterol, antibiotics, or hormones prevalent in many animal products.

    b) Cultivated meat or meat made in laboratory conditions can be produced without cholesterol and saturated fats creating a healthier nutritional profile compared to conventional meat.

  3. Animal agriculture and public health: Exposure to higher levels of air pollution-related to conventional animal agriculture including feed production is associated with an increase in asthma and other respiratory diseases, CVD, lung cancer, premature death. Agriculture-related water pollution increases the risks of methemoglobinemia, various kinds of cancer, birth defects, and thyroid disease. Dead zones from nutrient runoff cause algal blooms and threaten seafood production and various forms of marine life. Some algae produce toxins that threaten human and animal health when ingested or inhaled.

  4. Quality of Life / Occupational Health: A 2016 study by the Government Accountability Office found that the rates of injury and illness in the meat industry are higher than all other manufacturing jobs.

  5. Benefits of agroecological food production: Unlike conventional agriculture, applying agroecology to food production optimises interactions among animals, plants, humans and the environment. Adopting agroecological practices can increase yields, labour productivity and farm profitability, and decrease labour demand.

  6. Employee Health: Healthy employees are more productive. The return on investment for a business to assist employees in improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes can yield a significant return on investment. In one example, for every $100 spent on a wellness program, the organization earned $176 in output from its employees.

  7. Climate Change 1: Food animal production is responsible for about 15% of all anthropogenic global GHG emissions. The health impacts of climate change are considerable including Increases in infectious diseases, heat stress, malnutrition and undernutrition due to increased food insecurity, asthma and respiratory illness, water-borne illness, increased vector-borne diseases and more. These impacts will vary from region to region. Climate change is already having widespread adverse impacts on human health and they are expected to increase.  The general consensus is that the current state of food insecurity will be worsened by climate change-related impacts.

    b) Climate change is likely to adversely impact nutritional quality as well as safety, access and distribution of food and water due to unpredictable weather events that impact the safety and stability of food and water supply.

The rising chronic disease burden around the world impels health professionals and advocates to ask what we can do collaboratively to support healthier lifestyles around the world. Through this list of rationales, we hope to further the global discussion around making healthy food and lifestyle choices.

In order to achieve systemic change, we must learn from one another, and develop new ways of promoting healthier, plant-based food systems. If you’d like to join in the work of the Health Working Group, or think you’d benefit from their work, please reach out.

Learn more about the Power of changing diets

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