Reaching the global agenda through vegetarianism as a one health strategy

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ana Carolina Alves de Oliveira and Thiago Gurgel Regis are both first year medical students at Universidade do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte (UERN) in Mossoró, Brazil. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The veterinarian Albino Belotto defined “one health” as the union of human, animal and environmental care, in a joint manner, to achieve a successful strategy of public health efforts and ensure the well-being of populations. In this aspect, understanding how man and his systematic life habits can be a challenge to the global agenda is essential for the construction of a healthier, more conscious and sustainable society. 

From an integrated global health perspective, the vegetarian diet may be associated with improved well-being indicators. Originally, it was believed that a balanced diet should contain animal products, but studies have shown that vegetables can also provide nutrients necessary to preserve life. 

Vegetarianism meets the recommendations of the main substances, such as protein, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins. In addition, it positively affects health in preventing diseases such as obesity, DM2, cancer and gallstones. However, there are many motivations for the transition for those who overcome the cultural convention of meat consumption, mostly motivated by the animal cause and respect for other ways of life. 

From this perspective, vegetarian eating is also associated with the ethical choice to boycott a production system of confinement, exploitation, and slaughter of animals, since the understanding of animal sentience indicates that animals are capable of feeling pain and emotion, and therefore deserve respectful treatment and moral consideration, as well as a strategy that differs from sectoral approaches and proposes a joint solution with regard to human, animal, and environmental prosperity.  

On the other hand, it is worth pointing out the environmental impacts of farming, responsible for the consumption of about 96% of all fresh water available for use on the planet, which highlights the significance of the water footprint and the unsustainability of this model. Moreover, processes such as industrial fishing, aquatic farms, deforestation, and pollution of water areas cause environmental depletion, factors directly related to health, given the close relationship between the processes of health and illness of human beings and their environment, since society is made up of biopsychosocial beings.

 Furthermore, the increase in the world population leads to a greater demand for grain production to feed animals for slaughter, which requires resources that cannot be provided by the environment in a sustainable way. In this perspective, the use of these feed plantation areas could also be directed to the planting of varied vegetables for human nutrition, which could bring positive consequences with regard to food insecurity and alleviate hunger.  

In this way, vegetarianism can be seen as a factor that can initially and positively impact persistent collective problems such as food insecurity, environmental degradation, animal suffering, and the progress of chronic diseases. In summary, it is necessary to think of vegetarianism as a strategy to be adopted by society with impacts in all spheres of the “One Health” concept, as opposed to re-evaluating sectoral measures that do not think of a joint solution offered from the change in lifestyle.

References

DONEDA, Divair (org.). Vegetarianismo: saúde e filosofia de vida. Porto Alegre: UFRGS/FAMED, SEAD, 2020, p. 171-176.  Access on: https://www.lume.ufrgs.br/bitstream/handle/10183/210653/001115571.pdf?sequence=1  Access  on 23 august. 2021.

MELINA, V.; CRAIG W.; LEVIN S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, v. 116 , n. 12 , p. 1970 – 1980, 2016. Available from:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27886704/ Access  on 23 august. 2021.

SCHNEIDER, M. C. O conceito de “Uma Sáude” e sua aplicação na Região das Américas. 41º Conbravet e 14º Congresso de Medicina Veterinária Militar Gramado,Brasil. 2014. Available from: The Application and Concept of One Health (paho.org). Access  on 23 august. 2021.

DE SOUZA, E.C.G.; DA CONCEIÇÃO, L.L.; DUARTE, M.S.L. Alimentação Vegetariana: atualidades na abordagem nutricional. 1. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Rubio, 2016. Available from: Alimentação Vegetariana – Atualidades na Abordagem Nutricional Eliana Souza et al. pela Editora Rubio – issuu. Access  on 23 august. 2021.

About the authors

Ana Carolina Alves de Oliveira and Thiago Gurgel Regis are both first year medical students at Universidade do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte (UERN) in Mossoró, Brazil. They are trainees of the Local Board of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), directors of the academic league of applied human anatomy and are working in extension projects related to public health. Both believe that education is the key to build a better world and want to be a part of this change. 

Comments

  1. Yes. Vegetarianism is a good strategy. Thank you 😊🌍

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