Researchers say that a typical Irish diet is too dependent on meat and alcohol, causing health, financial, and environmental problems. According to Trinity College Dublin’s School of Natural Sciences, it is also rich in unsustainable foods—specifically animal products.
The research indicates that people consume large quantities of farmed animal protein, dairy, and other animal products. These products fuel the animal agricultural sector, which is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Raising livestock uses approximately 70 percent of all available agricultural land and is a leading cause of pollution.
The studies also raised concerns regarding the average person’s alcohol consumption. Trinity College found that alcohol accounts for less than 7 percent of daily calorie intake but an average of 25 percent of the daily nutritional cost. Excessive consumption of alcohol—and animal products—is linked to serious health issues including diabetes, colon cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The new research indicates that major improvements are possible and specifically highlights the EAT-Lancet Commission’s “Planetary Health” diet. The guidelines focus on plant-based foods, prioritizing nutritionally dense fruits, vegetables, and grains.
The studies find that adopting the “Planetary Health” diet could potentially improve the nutritional quality of people’s food. It could also reduce Ireland’s diet-associated Global Warming Potential by up to 57 percent. A growing body of evidence links plant-based whole foods with improved personal and planetary health.
Meat Consumption in Europe
Researchers also found that similar patterns are prevalent throughout Europe. As countries become more wealthy, meat consumption increases—and the “healthfulness” of diets declines.
Mike Williams, the assistant professor of botany in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, and lead author of both reports said: “Global diets have become more ‘westernised,’ less healthy and more damaging to the environment.”
“Over-consumption of nutritionally poor foods has led to a global crisis in obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease and colon cancer,” Williams explained. “While the global food industry has failed the environment in terms of its impact on global warming and nitrogen pollution.”
“Effective change can be achieved only through education,” he added. “Our research hopefully adds to the considerable database on sustainable foods, sustainable diets and informed dietary choice – but from an Irish perspective.”
In April 2019, a study by Vitabiotics indicated that 49 percent of all Irish people were ready to adopt a vegan diet for environmental and health reasons. Thirty-seven percent revealed they were interested in going vegan full time. While seven out of 10 said they would consider incorporating more plant-based food into their existing diet.