18 Feb 2016


Sustainable diets key for the wellness of humanity and the planet
The second edition of “Eating Planet. Food and sustainability: building our future” by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation was presented today, in Milan, to the press and public.
The volume explores how a balanced diet can, at the same time, reduce the environmental impact of our daily eating choices, prevent the onset of chronic and cardiovascular diseases and result in a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Milan 18/02/2016 – It’s a well-known fact that transport, heating buildings and electricity use have had an impact on the environment resulting in climate change. But what isn’t so well-known is that we are literally devouring the planet in which we live. What we put on our plate and what we eat everyday has the greatest impact on the environment. Considering greenhouse gases alone, food has the highest impact on climate change at 31% of the total, surpassing heating (23.6%) and transport (18.5%). Meat consumption plays a considerable role in this, responsible for 12% of total emissions, while dairy products contribute to 5%. What’s more, from 1990 to the present day, greenhouse gases from farming have increased by 20% and doubled since 1960. Our food choices therefore play a fundamental role in safeguarding our planet. That’s why adopting the double food and environment pyramid – a model promoting the Mediterranean diet, demonstrating its benefits for the health of mankind and the environment – is one of the first steps in the journey towards safeguarding the planet and health.

So although the latest Istat report shows that Italy boasts the longest living and slimmest inhabitants in Europe, all thanks to the Mediterranean diet, our country risks seeing the situation change due to a progressive shift away from this food model, particularly by younger generations. Indeed, at the moment 2 out of 10 teenagers are overweight, our country has one of the highest rates of overweight and obese children in Europe and young people and adults are doing less and less sport (only 3 out of 10). If we combine these two elements (sedentary lifestyle and changing food habits with a preference for a diet rich in animal protein and fats) and project them into the future, it seems inevitable that we will see an impact on the rate of related disease like diabetes (a new case is diagnosed every 5 seconds), heart diseases (the first cause of death in the world with 20 million deaths in 2015) and chronic conditions (accounting for 60% of deaths in the world).

This is the picture drawn by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN Foundation, the think tank established to analyse the biggest topics relating to food and nutrition in the world), which today launched the second edition of Eating Planet. Food and sustainability: building our future in the presence of President Guido Barilla and many other attendees. The book collects together and outlines reflections, challenges and concrete solutions to build a sustainable system for the health of humanity and the planet. A long journey that passes through the recently concluded Expo Milan to the ambitious objectives set in the Paris Conference, COP21, to tackle the 3 greatest paradoxes in the current agro-food system.

“Four years on from the first edition we wanted to update Eating Planet to collect together the most important scientific contributions, explain how the journey undertaken by BCFN is progressing and offer concrete solutions to the big topics relating to food and nutrition,” declared Guido Barilla, President of the BCFN Foundation. “The forecasts for the future, outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Objectives, are very challenging,” continued Guido Barilla, “and we’ve still got a long way to go. Many people think that our environmental impact primarily depends on factors like the cars that we drive or how we heat our homes. But in reality, the most important thing – the way in which each of us has the greatest impact on the environment – is what we eat! In this sense, adopting a sustainable diet can become a real driver for change to safeguard our health and the planet on which we live. The BCFN will continue to offer texts and analysis that put forward new and scientifically valid prospects as well as concrete solutions for making our agro-food system sustainable and distributing food in a fair, healthy and sustainable way.”

The first edition of Eating Planet revolved its analysis and proposals around the 3 great paradoxes in the food system: first and foremost, for every undernourished person in the world there are two overweight people; 40% of cereal harvest is used to produce feed and biofuel regardless of the spread of hunger; at a global level we waste a third of total food production, totalling 4 times what we need to feed the 795 million of undernourished people in the world. What can we do to resolve this situation? What type of contribution can we all make such as to head in the direction of food that is both healthy and sustainable?

Through four pillars of analysis Eating Planet sees food as an element affecting all aspect of life, from the economy to health, sustainability to traditions, and puts forward an alternative model that connects the wellness of humanity with the wellness of the planet.


Bcfn Index on “sustainable wellness”: Italy in a bad way in terms of food choices and impact on lifestyle

Despite a number of positive indicators (like the long life expectancy of the population), Italian lifestyle seems to be suffering a setback: 18.3% of Italians between the age of 11 and 15 – almost 2 out of 10 – is overweight compared with just 8.7% of Japanese youngsters; in Sweden 72% of the population regularly does physical activity while in Italy just 29% of people do sport, which in turn has an impact on the development of diseases and thus on life expectancy and the cost to society.

To capture a clear photograph of the situation, researchers at the BCFN Foundation have defined two Indices, presented in Eating Planet, that analyse and measure, alongside GDP (a measure of economic wellness that does not calculate social inequalities or the state of the environment), aspects relating to food and their impact on quality of life. Food and nutrition do indeed have a direct and indirect impact on the wellness of people. Food choices affect the health of both adults and children (direct cause or source of illnesses, or offering protection from some diseases) and the environment, being responsible for the consumption and use of natural resources as well affecting social life, on aspects like conviviality and time dedicated to the preparation and eating of meals. According to these special indicators, Italy is in third last position in terms of “current wellness”, above Spain and Greece, but behind countries like Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, Switzerland and the USA. A situation that gets worse if we look at “the index of the sustainability of the wellness of future generations”, where we are in penultimate place behind Greece. A picture requiring reflection (on the concept of wellness, which cannot merely be reduced to economic characteristics) and actions that will have an impact on public decision processes coming together to define the social, political, economic and environmental conditions in which people live.

keeping a grip on food availability, the growing global population and environmental impact: the challenge starts at the table

But the topic of food cannot be disassociated from that of sustainability. In this view, the first problem to be tackled is that of protecting the “soil”. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), 25% of soil in the world is seriously damaged and only 10% shows some sign of improvement. In the past 40 years alone 30% of farm land has become infertile. And yet simple solutions like increasing the variety of crops, instead of concentrating solely on soy and maize, would help restore nutrients in the soil and help farmers for big and small companies to obtain higher yield per hectare. It’s also worth pointing out that in less than 10 years’ time, by 2025, 3 million people will not have drinking water while today, 70% of fresh water is destined for agricultural and food production. Indeed the latter accounts for 23% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

These problems appear even more alarming when, as highlighted in Eating Planet, we take into account the impact on global nutrition. By 2050 the global population will reach about 9.5 billion, requiring a 70% increase in agricultural production: what can be done to respond to this need? The questions of nutrition and sustainability therefore cannot be answered without the understanding that our food choices have an impact on the environment (as well as on health). And so we go back to the topic of food models. Limiting our consumption of animal proteins to just twice a week (instead of daily) and making more room for cereals and pulses, can save up to 2,300g of CO2 a day. Resulting in a 750kg annual reduction of CO2 emissions per person, the equivalent of driving 5,600km with an average cylinder car or a round-trip from Milan to Moscow.

As such in the new edition of Eating Planet, the BCFN studies and proposes the adoption of the double food pyramid model – which brings together the nutritional aspects of food and the environmental impact they generate in the production and consumption phases – presenting an updated version that takes into account both the nutritional requirements of children and teenagers and the habits of foreigners living in Italy.

chronic and cardiovascular diseases, the new “epidemics” of our times: prevention starts at the table

Bad diets have repercussions on health. Although improved living conditions now enable the global population to live longer, the changes do not necessarily equate to the prolongation of good health over a lifetime. A third of the US population is estimated to be affected by a chronic or incurable illness, and chronic diseases are alone responsible for the majority of deaths in the world, causing, each year, about 35 million deaths (60% of deaths on a global level, 80% of which in low and middle income countries). And yet hundreds of studies have shown that restricted calorie intake prevents or delays the onset of the majority of chronic diseases associated with getting old and prolongs the average life by up to 50%.

According to the analysis presented in the book, obesity and metabolic syndrome epidemics cause a dramatic increase in diabetes, a diseas currently suffered by more than 392 million people in the world, with more than 7 million new cases each year or a new case every 5 seconds.

And yet these figures are nothing compared to cardiac diseases. In 2015 about 20 million deaths were related to a cardiac disease, the primary cause of death in the world. In the European continent alone, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for more than 4 million deaths a year, having an economic impact (counting fees for hospital services, drugs, home help, lost work days, etc.), in 2009, of 196 billion euros, more than 200 euros per capita a year.

In Eating Planet the BCFN reaffirms the strong and direct link connecting lifestyle – in which food plays a key role – and health, and promotes a model in which food choices are one of the most important components in defining a healthy lifestyle.

towards the rediscovery of the “almost” lost Mediterranean diet

Italians’ food habits are changing and new generations seem to be abandoning the Mediterranean diet in favour of new food trends characterised by foods with a high fat content. This change of diet and its associated reduction in physical activity are one of the main causes for the steep rise in levels of obesity. Italy is, for instance, among the top countries in Europe for childhood obesity. And the situation doesn’t get any better in the adult and elderly population.

What’s more, in our country, the trend of abandoning the traditional Mediterranean diet in favour of other food models is becoming more and more widespread. Every day in Italy about 105 million meals are consumed, 24% of which outside the home, with a preference for lunch (53%) over dinner (47%). And our faster pace of life is reflected in our meals: 9% of interviewees reported eating lunch “quickly” in less than ten minutes and 14% eat standing up. As a result time dedicated to eating is compressed and is a lower priority than other daily tasks. The situation is similar beyond our borders.

Although European citizens say they eat a healthy diet, levels of people finding it difficult to eat healthily remain consistent in countries like Hungary (54%), Slovakia (%2%) and Poland (49%). Among the obstacles to healthy eating, European citizens have cited the excessive amount of time it takes to plan and prepare meals (31%), the lack of control over food eaten as it is prepared by others (27%) and the idea that healthy means less tasty.

In Eating Planet, BCFN debates our relationship with food to make time spent eating less predictable and more intense while valuing conviviality and directing lifestyles towards a way of eating that is more sustainable for our health and the environment.

The biggest national and international names in the worlds of science, the environment and food have contributed towards the creation of Eating Planet.
BCFN would like to thank Tony Allan, Gianfranco Bologna, Barbara Buchner, Paolo De Castro, Sara Farnetti, Ellen Gustafson, Michel Heasman, Hans R. Herren, Alexandre Kalache, Aviva Must, Marion Nestle, Danielle Nierenberg, Jamie Oliver, Shimon Peres, Carlo Petrini, Gabriele Riccardi, Camillo Ricordi, Paul Roberts, Vandana Shiva, Pavan Sukhdev, Ricardo Uauy and Riccardo Valentini.

Over the course of the year, Eating Planet will be presented in New York, Naples, Rome and at the biggest national events dedicated to culture, science, literature and sustainable development.

Caterina Grossi, Media Relations Manager, caterina.grossi@barillacfn.com, +39 0521 2621


Simone Silvi, Senior Account Media Relations, s.silvi@inc-comunicazione.it, +39 335.10.97.279
Francesca Riccardi, Media Relations Consultant, f.riccardi@inc-comunicazione.it, +39 335.72.51.741

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN Foundation) is a think tank born in 2009 to analyse topics relating to food and nutrition in the world. The cause and effect relationship of economic, scientific, social and environmental factors are studied in relation to food in a multidisciplinary approach. The President and Vice President of the BCFN Foundation are Guido and Paolo Barilla, while the BoD is formed, among others, of Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food and Paolo De Castro, coordinator of the Agricultural and Rural Development Commission in the European Parliament. The Advisory Board supervises the work of the BCFN Foundation. For more information please visit www.barillacfn.com and www.protocollodimilano.it