The reducing of animal-sourced foods consumption: a One Health approach

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Andreina Marina Rebouças de Oliveira and Lara Victória Rebouças Aragão are medical students in the first year at the Universidade do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte (UERN), 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.


“One Health” is an amplified concept that integrates aspects such as health, environment, guarantee of basic rights and globalization. On this subject, many correlations can be addressed under the logic of a multisectoral health, such as the association between food and human, animal and environmental health.

To emphasize this association, the consumption of animal-sourced food should be mentioned as a global cultural habit that, despite being millenary, h(as been increasingly questioned due to its multifactorial implications. In this sense, the intake of meat, especially red meat, and dairy products are factors that directly impact global health, with environmental and pathophysiological effects, as it contributes to numerous disorders, such as deforestation, prevalence of obesity-related pathologies and inadequate nutrition.

With regard to human health, discussions are increasingly frequent around the scientific evidence that diets with smaller amounts or without meat reduce the incidence of chronic or inflammatory diseases (stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, atherosclerosis and cancers), mainly due to the control of the levels of inflammatory markers involved in the progression of some of these pathologies¹. In this context, a study² carried out by the University of Oxford demonstrated that, compared to current dietary habits, the adoption of the global dietary guidelines would prevent 5.1 million deaths per year, while the adoption of the vegetarian diet would prevent 7.3 million and the vegan diet it would avoid 8.1 million, which highlights the importance of changing food culture for global health.

It is also worth mentioning the strong relationship between animal-sourced food and environmental damage, given that the breeding of ruminant animals directly involves the release of large amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere, in addition to deforestation caused by the acquisition of larger spaces for the planting of food for the production of feed (corn and soy). From this perspective, a survey³ published in the journal Science showed that the production of meat, eggs and dairy products uses about 83% of the arable land on the planet and contributes with 58% of greenhouse gas emissions, showing, quantitatively, the catastrophic results from the excessive consumption of animal products.

Therefore, reducing the consumption of animal-sourced products would bring positive impacts to human health, as well as to environmental preservation. However, to achieve these benefits, we need to overcome the barriers that prevent us from adopting a diet with fewer animal derivatives – including industrialized ones – and more plant-based. To this end, the path must be guided by actions that enable the dissemination of knowledge about adequate nutrition and by public conducts that enable this dietary change, such as avoiding tax incentives for the livestock industry and support for family farmers, in order to ensure a more organic and affordable food. Only from these institutional and behavioral changes will it be fully possible to expand the concept of One Health based on the union between human and environmental health.

References

¹ SHAH, Binita et al. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of a Vegan Diet Versus the American Heart Association-Recommended Diet in Coronary Artery Disease Trial. Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA), p. 1-14, 27 Nov. 2018. DOI 10.1161/JAHA.118.011367. Available from: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/epub/10.1161/JAHA.118.011367. Access on: 24 Aug. 2021.

² SPRINGMANN, Marco et al. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), p. 1-6, 12 Apr. 2016. DOI 10.1073/pnas.1523119113. Available from: https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/113/15/4146.full.pdf. Access on: 24 Aug. 2021

³ POORE, J.; NEMECEK, T. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, p. 1-7, 1 Jun. 2018. DOI 10.1126/science.aaq0216. Available from: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/360/6392/987.full.pdf. Access on: 24 Aug. 2021.

SCHUCK, Cynthia. Relatório especial das Nações Unidas aponta necessidade urgente de redução no consumo de carnes. 9 Aug. 2019. Available from: https://www.svb.org.br/2545-relatorio-especial-das-nacoes-unidas-aponta-necessidade-urgente-de-reducao-no-consumo-de-carnes. Access on: 24 Aug. 2021.

About the author

Andreina Marina Rebouças de Oliveira and Lara Victória Rebouças Aragão are medical students in the first year at the Universidade do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte (UERN), Brazil. The students are members of International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) Brazil UERN and of the extension program Anatomia e Fisiopatologia de Agravos de Saúde Pública em Escolas (FAASPE). They strongly believe in the power of medicine and science, which must be fully utilized for social change.

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