Knowledge for better food systems

EAT-Lancet diet versus Dietary Guidelines for Americans

FCRN member Nicole Tichenor Blackstone has co-authored this paper, which compares the diets recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission and by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). It finds areas of similarity as well as areas of divergence.

The rationale behind the research is to find out how far the EAT-Lancet dietary recommendations vary from existing dietary guidance. The EAT-Lancet diet was developed by considering both health and environmental sustainability, whereas - in contrast - the Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not account for sustainability. 

A complicating factor is that the EAT-Lancet specifies its recommendations in grams, while the DGA uses servings. This paper developed conversion factors to enable a side-by-side comparison of the different sets of recommendations. The EAT-Lancet diet was compared to three diets from the DGA: healthy US-style, healthy Mediterranean style, and healthy vegetarian.

The EAT-Lancet and the DGA both recommend similar consumption levels for vegetables, poultry, eggs, seafood, soy, beans and peas, dairy, and unsaturated oils. EAT-Lancet recommended 25-33% more total grains that the DGA, but EAT-Lancet recommends zero refined grains while the DGA allows some refined grains. The DGA recommends fewer red and orange vegetables and more dark green vegetables than EAT-Lancet.

EAT-Lancet recommends a higher consumption of protein foods than DGA, but with considerably more beans and peas and 80% less red meat than the healthy US-style and healthy Mediterranean style DGA diets. 

The paper notes that further research is required to establish the relative environmental impacts of the EAT-Lancet diet versus the DGA diets.

 

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to compare the global reference diet from the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems (EAT-Lancet) with the healthy eating patterns from the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Conversion factors were developed to quantitatively compare the patterns. These factors are provided to enable investigators to incorporate the EAT-Lancet diet into analyses while maintaining relevance to US-based dietary guidance. Our findings show several areas of agreement between EAT-Lancet and the DGA but key differences in the amounts of whole grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, red meat, nuts and seeds, and discretionary calories. Many of the differences between the patterns reflect divergent approaches to developing dietary recommendations, not only methodologically but also regarding whether current food consumption patterns are considered as constraints on recommendations. Continued interdisciplinary collaboration is needed to advance dietary guidance that promotes sustainable nutrition.

 

Reference

Blackstone, N.T. and Conrad, Z., 2020. Comparing the Recommended Eating Patterns of the EAT-Lancet Commission and Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Implications for Sustainable Nutrition. Current Developments in Nutrition, 4(3), p.nzaa015.

Read the full paper here. See also the Foodsource chapter Do recommended healthier diets contribute to lower environmental impacts and vice versa?

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North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

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