Eat a carrot, hurt the economy? Sometimes...

New study reveals that healthy eating habits may be more harmful then beneficial.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 15, 2010 17:23
2 minute read.
vegetables

vegetables 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

Eating a healthy diet may be good for you, but it may be unintentionally slimming for the economies of some developing countries, a new study says.

British researchers modeled what could happen if people in Britain and Brazil adopted healthier diets as defined by the World Health Organization, including more fruits and vegetables and less meat and dairy products.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


In Britain, experts estimated that fixing the country's bad eating habits might prevent nearly 70,000 people from prematurely dying of diet-related health problems like heart disease and cancer. It would also theoretically save the health system 20 billion pounds ($32 billion) every year.

In Brazil, however, the rates of illnesses linked to a poor diet are not as high as in the U.K. So Brazilians would get relatively few health benefits while their economy might lose millions.

The study was paid for by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and was published online Thursday in the medical journal, Lancet.

"We are not suggesting people not eat a healthy diet," said Richard Smith, a professor of health system economics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "We're just trying to point out that healthier eating can have unintended consequences."

Smith and colleagues said decisions in Brazil and in Western countries to adopt more vegetarian diets could cost the meat-dependent Brazilian economy 1,388 million reais ($815 million).



"In an ideal world, we would all have a perfect diet," Smith said. "But it's also desirable that everybody has a job."

Smith said officials should consider nutritional guidelines more carefully. For countries like Brazil, which rely heavily on meat imports to the West and to Japan, global nutritional advice could potentially be devastating.

Others weren't so sure.

"There are things happening in the rest of the world that this model didn't account for," said Julian Morris, executive director of International Policy Network, a London-based think tank. "The increasing demand for meat in Asia is substantial, ongoing, and might counteract any reduced demand in developed countries."

Morris also disputed the assumption that healthy eating recommendations would change what people actually do have for dinner.

"If you really want a dramatic change in consumption of meat and dairy products, you need a radical policy, like a tax or quota system," he said.

Robert Beaglehole, an emeritus professor at the University of Auckland not linked to the study, said scientific developments might help one day.

"The answer could be to breed healthier cattle and pigs," he said, adding that more research was needed on whether additional strategies were necessary to ensure healthy eating guidelines don't accidentally hurt developing economies.

Smith said experts shouldn't assume nutritional advice, even when it's followed, automatically improves health.

"You could tell people to buy less meat and maybe they will buy bananas instead," he said. "But they could also buy more beer and wine."

Related Content

[illustrative photo]
September 24, 2011
Diabetes may significantly increase risk of dementia

By UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN HEALTH SYSTEM