Empirical support for the Government’s Eatwell Guide

By Judy Buttriss

- Last updated on GMT

Buttriss: 'An increasingly large proportion of plant-based food is imported'
Buttriss: 'An increasingly large proportion of plant-based food is imported'

Related tags Ingredients & nutrition Npd

Better adherence to the UK’s Eatwell Guide recommendations is associated with health (7% reduction in total mortality risk) and environmental benefits in terms of dietary greenhouse gas emissions (30% reduction), compared to very low compliance.

That's according to a paper by Scheelbeek and colleagues (http:// dx. doi.org/ 10. 1136/ bmjopen- 2020-037554​).

Yet, currently, less than 0.1% of us adhere to all the recommendations and less than a third (30.6%) comply with at least five out of nine, which concern fruit and veg, oily fish, other fish, red & processed meat, fibre, salt, free sugars, saturated fat and total fat. 

Poorest adherence was for fibre (recommended 30g/day; 7.2% achieved this) and oily fish (16.8% ate one serving a week), while over half met the recommendations for red and processed meat (less than 70g per day; met by 64.2%), saturated fat (52.3%), total fat (80.2%) and salt (71.2%).

Biggest reduction in mortality risk

The biggest reduction in mortality risk (10%) was associated with following fruit and veg advice, but compliance (achieved by 26%) was also associated with an increased blue water footprint of the diet (+28.5 L/person/day).

The research highlights the importance of not just considering greenhouse gases when assessing the environmental impact of dietary change, and of recognising the trade-offs that need to be managed in determining a dietary pattern that is healthy and environmentally sustainable. 

The authors caution that an increasingly large proportion of plant-based food is imported and originates from countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change and water shortage, implications of which need to be taken into account in global food strategies.

They also remind us that dietary change is only one of a number of ways by which we can personally influence environmental impact. Others include active travel and lower emission vehicles.

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