Citing the EAT-Lancet diet as a benchmark for ‘sustainable’ eating, scientists from Aarhus University’s Department of Public Health have investigated the link between the risk of bleeding and blood clots in the brain and sustainable food. Their findings, published in scientific journal Stroke, suggest that putting more vegetables and less meat on your plate not only benefits the climate, but also your health.
"If adult men or women follow a sustainable diet and the Nordic recommendations for dietary fibre intake, then we see a lower risk of bleeding or blood clots in the brain," explained Christina Dahm, who is behind the study.
This knowledge is important because it contradicts a previous UK study that ‘received a lot of publicity’, the authors suggest. The UK research found vegetarians have a higher risk of brain haemorrhages than meat eaters.
"A vegetarian diet is very similar to a sustainable diet, and since we need to eat more sustainably in the future, it was a rather worrying result. Our results show that it is safe to eat a sustainable diet," stressed Daniel Ibsen, who has also contributed to the study.
Balancing health and sustainability
Dahm stressed that it is vital for the population to strike the right balance between diets that are healthy and sustainable. "The food we eat has a crucial influence on our health, but also affects our climate and the environment. We need to eat more sustainably, but of course it’s important that we also have a healthy diet," she noted.
The researchers used data from the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health population study. A total of 57,053 adults aged 50 to 64 took part in the study in the early 1990s and answered questions about their eating habits and lifestyles. In the following years, researchers have been able to use the Danish registers to identify participants who developed bleeding and blood clots in the brain.
According to Dahm, this latest research should be followed up in the context of today's Danish dietary habits, which contain an increased amount of what she describes as new ‘sustainable’ foods such as oat milk and plant-based meat alternatives, as well as studies that examine more specifically how Danes can become better at complying with climate-friendly dietary advice.
The Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, alongside the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, launched some climate-friendly dietary recommendations to help people understand what constitutes a sustainable diet. These recommendations will contribute to achieving the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030, while at the same time boosting public health. This ambition is outlined in the Danish Climate Act.
Denmark’s seven healthy and sustainable diet recommendations include:
- Eat a plant-rich, varied diet - and don't eat in excess.
- Eat more vegetables and fruit.
- Eat less meat – choose legumes and fish.
- Eat whole grains.
- Choose vegetable oils and low-fat dairy products.
- Eat less sweet, salty and fatty food.
- Quench your thirst with water.
‘Adherence to the EAT-Lancet Diet and Risk of Stroke and Stroke Subtypes: A Cohort Study’
Authors: Daniel B. Ibsen, Anne H. Christiansen, Anja Olsen, Anne Tjønneland, Kim Overvad, Alicja Wolk, Janne K. Mortensen, and Christina C. Dahm