Almost 1.6BILLION people can’t afford the £2.22-a-day ‘planetary health diet’ that cuts red meat allowance to just a quarter of a rasher of bacon
- International researchers said a cheaper diet could have the same effect
- They predicted more than half of sub-Saharan Africans would be priced out
- And it may be too costly even for people in North America and Europe
- World Health Organization withdrew its support for the diet recommendations
- People should get most of their calories from grains, fruit, vegetables and beans
The ultimate healthy diet would be unaffordable for at least 1.58billion people around the world, according to experts.
Scientists recently created a universal diet which they said is best for human health and for protecting the environment.
It is mostly plant-based but includes fish, poultry and eggs, and small amounts of red meat are optional.
But the $2.84 (£2.22) per person per day it is predicted to cost would be too much for almost a quarter of the world’s population, researchers have warned.
Although the diet could be cheaper than average for Westerners, more than half of people in sub-Saharan Africa and a third of South Asians may be unable to afford it.
A radical ‘planetary health diet’ suggests people should replace nearly all meat and dairy with beans while doubling their vegetable intake
The diet says people should get most of their calories from grains, fruit and vegetables and legumes and nuts – it drastically cuts back the amount of red meat and added sugar people in developed countries eat
Experts from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Tufts University in Massachusetts issued the warning in a study published today.
They said the recommendations – which were created earlier this year – had failed to make the ‘universal’ diet affordable.
They were published by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, a non-profit organisation founded by scientists in the UK, Sweden and Norway.
Professor William Masters, an economist at Tufts, said: ‘When formulating this pioneering benchmark diet – addressing individual health outcomes as well as the health of the planet – the Commission deliberately did not take its cost into account.’
His colleague at the IFPRI, Dr Kalle Hirvonen, added: ‘We found that the global median of the proposed diet would cost $2.84 per day as of 2011.
‘In low-income countries, that amounts to 89.1 percent of a household’s daily per capita income, which is more than people can actually spend on food.
‘In high-income countries, we found that the EAT-Lancet reference diet would cost 6.1 percent of per-capita income, which is often less than what people now spend on food.’
The diet is not made up of specific ingredients but instead recommendations of how much of someone’s food should be made up each different type.
Broken down by calories, it suggests whole grains such as rice and pasta should make up about a third of a 2,500kcal-per-day diet suitable for a 30-year-old woman weighing 131lbs (60kg).
Some 243kcal should come from fruit and vegetables, 575kcal from beans and nuts, 132kcal from meat (including fish) and just 120kcal from added sugar.
Professor Masters and Dr Hirvonen and their colleagues found the EAT-Lancet diet was 64 per cent more expensive than it could have been.
They worked out the $2.84 cost using retail prices in an international standardised computer program developed by the World Bank and various nations.
They used prices for 744 food items in 159 countries and said a far cheaper diet could still meet nutritional requirements and be good for the environment.
‘Although 1.58 billion is a lot of people, it is actually a conservative lower limit on the total number who cannot afford the diet,’ Professor Masters said.
‘The cost of food preparation and of non-food necessities ensure that an even larger number of people cannot afford that kind of healthy diet.’
And Dr Hirvonen added: ‘Even if many poor consumers were to aspire to consume healthier and more environmentally sustainable foods, income and price constraints frequently render this diet unaffordable.
‘Increased earnings and safety-net transfers, as well as lower food prices, are needed to bring healthy and sustainable diets within reach of the world’s poor.’
In some countries, including Madagascar, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the diet would cost more than the average household income.