By Gitte Laub Hansen, Danish Cancer Society; David Ritchie, European Cancer Leagues
The new dietary recommendations from the EAT Lancet Commission report proposes radical changes to our diets.
After an extensive review of the best available evidence, the report describes a so-called “planetary health diet” meeting the essential nutritional requirements, promotes health, and offers a route for sustainable consumption. The planetary health diet consists of approximately 35% of calories as wholegrains, protein sources mainly from plants, and 500g per day of vegetables and fruits.
Transitioning to this dietary pattern will require consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by around 50%, whilst consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains would have to double.
Bearing this in mind, many have questioned whether it is possible to change diets in this direction and at a reasonable pace. The experience from the Danish Whole Grain Partnership gives a glimpse of hope on the feasibility of such dietary improvement. The gap between the recommended and the actual whole grain intake is huge. However, in Denmark, the Whole Grain Partnership succeeded with a near doubling of the whole grain intake in less than 10 years, due to the work of the Danish Whole Grain Partnership.
The partnership’s strategy is twofold: to increase both the supply and the demand for whole grain. That is why the whole grain logo became an important incentive for food industry to reformulate and develop new whole grain products that live up to category specific nutritional criteria (high in whole grain, low in salt, sugars and fats). In 2007, approximately 150 products had the whole grain logo: today, more than 800 products sport the logo. Thus, the availability of whole grain in Denmark has increased dramatically.
The whole grain logo also became an easy way for consumers to identify whole grain products. More than 70% of the population are acquainted with the logo, and among them 50% look for products with the whole grain logo when shopping. Demand for whole grain has also increased in Denmark, aided by campaigns about the health benefits of whole grain, on pack communication, and marketing of whole grain products.
When the Danish Whole Grain partnership was established, it was very important to involve representatives from all sectors: health authorities, health NGOs, retail and food industry, and to acknowledge the value of different partner roles.
As this example illustrates, building capacity through public private partnerships involving several sectors could be one way to ensure the needed transition to a more healthy and sustainable planetary diet.