31% of greenhouse gases originate from the production and consumption of food. At the same time lifestyle illnesses like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are on the rise worldwide. Working with leading Swiss and international experts from institutions like Public Health Schweiz, The Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and Barilla Food Centre, Eaternity aims to promote a culture in which health and sustainability are not in conflict.
During Eaternity’s Health Footprint workshop (see impressions) the parties analyzed and discussed the minimal requirements and main hurdles of a health indicator that at the same time targets to minimize global warming. Getting high quality nutritional information into Eaternity’s food database was one of our first steps in the project.
Now you can check the number of calories, the amounts of all relevant macro- and micronutrients in comparison to their daily recommendations and, of course, the CO₂ impact for every ingredient in co-relation to your entire recipe, as well as color-coded for its’ general environmental impact in the Eaternity App. This new nutritional transparency gave us a strong and solid foundation for our research.
Health does not equal Health
Using the Eaternity Database we analyzed over 600 restaurant meals, using different scientifically peer-reviewed and published health indicators. We found that close to 20% of offerings are healthy and climate-friendly in equal parts. However, depending on the health indicator applied, different meals topped the list with little to no overlap! Health does not equal health so to speak. So we chose to go a different way and create a health indicator that targets habits that lead to increased risk of dietary related disorders.
To track health reliably, we use a completely new system called DALY
So far we have only looked at eating well balanced meals, filled with macro- and micronutrients. In the Western world however, malnutrition is a minor issue compared to lifestyle diseases. In order to promote wholesome health, we must also look at foods that cause lifestyle diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and cancer. Although non exclusive, the two approaches are rooted in entirely different sets of data. One focuses on nutrients that are supposed to make us healthy, while the other is looking at foods that ”don’t make us sick”.
Consequences of illnesses are measured in DALY (Disability Adjusted Life Years). More than 1000 scientists from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Project analyze the quality and quantify the results from available studies on health and impact of dietary patterns on lifestyle diseases. The data is reliable and regularly updated. And even though based on a background of highly complex science, the dietary habits are easy to understand and change comes by a lot easier than with tracking nutrients. However, there is one big challenge for us by using the GBD Project data as a starting point for a health indicator for meals and diet. It has never been done before!
Health also means moving away from our current cultural habits.
The direction forward clashes with our perceived cultural status quo. Looking at the dietary habits investigated by the GBD project, they still are widely perceived as unpopular: We are required increase the use of vegetables and protein-rich legumes and reduce the amounts of processed and red meat. Further, we should increase the variety of our diets by including nuts and eating more seasonal. The main hurdle to promote a culture in which health and sustainability are not in conflict with each other is not the lack of solid data. It is the fact that we need to move away from our current cultural habits.
How Eaternity defines “climate-friendly” for meals you can read here.
Do you want to contribute or collaborate with us on our research? Contact us! Do you have an opinion or comments on our mission? Let us know!