The theme of International Youth Day on August 12th 2021 is, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”. The aim is to highlight that the success of a global effort to transform food systems will not be achieved without the participation of young people collectively and individually.
The world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion people in the next 30 years. Crucial challenges to be addressed include the need to move towards more equitable and sustainable food systems; poverty reduction; social inclusion; nutrition; health; education; planetary health; habitat loss; climate change mitigation; and the effects of the pandemic on human health, the environment and food systems.
Factors that need to be taken into account include:
- the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population that often lead to air and ocean pollution and desertification.
- the risk of zoonotic diseases that can result from unsustainable farming practices, loss of habitats and the climate crisis.
- human health - nutrition-related chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer are major contributors to the global burden of disease.
Let’s look at what the research says about the effects of our diets on the planet and our health.
The Environmental Impacts of Different Diets
Research comparing the environmental impact of omniverous, ovo-lacto-vegetarian and vegan diets found that on the whole omnivorous diets generated larger carbon, water and ecological footprints than the other diets. No differences were found between the environmental impacts of vegetarian and vegan diets (2). However, not all vegan and vegetarian diets are equally good. Some vegetarians and vegans have higher environmental impacts than some omnivores (2), so it really is down to the individual to examine their diet to see where the impacts lie. The more processed and packaged a food is the larger the environmental impact is likely to be. Eating locally grown, seasonal, organic, minimally packaged foods and cooking from scratch are likely to lead to the lowest environmental impact.
Vegans, Vegetarians and Health
For ethical, ecological and health reasons the prevalence of vegetarian and vegan diets is on the increase in Europe and other Western countries. Studies done mainly in adult populations find that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of chronic diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and some types of cancer (3).
As children and young people are still growing and developing they may be particularly at risk of nutrient deficiencies. For this reason additional supplementation may be needed by vegans or vegetarians or anyone on a restricted diet. Nutrients that may be lacking from these diets include vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, and potentially other micronutrients (3).
Vegans and Fitness
Research suggests that young vegans who engage in sports and fitness may need to ensure sufficient intake of energy and protein, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, iodine and vitamin D; and the omega 3 fats EPA and DHA.
Rest assured that a well planned, varied vegan diet, along with appropriate supplementation can meet the dietary needs of most athletes (4).
Vegans and vegetarians may benefit from the following products:
- Tom Oliver’s B Complex
- Tom Oliver’s Vitamin D3 + K2
- Tom Oliver’s Calcium Citrate
- Tom Oliver’s Iron Complex
- Tom Oliver’s Zinc
- Tom Oliver’s Women’s Complete Multi and Men’s Complete Multi
- Tom Oliver’s Omega 3
- Tom Oliver’s Vegan Protein Powder