WHO: Plant-based meat substitutes not suitable for health

The WHO warns: attention to “plant-based” foods and their negative impact on health, sustainability and the environment.

Plant-based food is not better than meat. The warning recently published in a paper comes from the WHO: “Plant-based diets and their impact on health, sustainability and the environment“. The fact sheet on the impact of plant-based diets on health, sustainability and the environment spotlight plant-based substitutes of meat and milk, highlighting that they are not better for health.

According to the WHO/Europe document, these plant-based substitutes are ultra-processed foods. This means that they have a high energy density, a high content of sodium, saturated fats and simple sugars, and at the same time poor in fiber, vitamins and essential minerals. In short, a combination that is harmful to health, which has nothing to do with the nutritional value of natural animal source foods that they claim to replace. They are not equivalent even if they call themselves “meat analogues” or “milk substitutes”.

In the press release, WHO/Europe notes that “research has shown that frequent consumption of these ultra-processed foods has negative health impacts, including overweight, obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic heart risks, type 2 diabetes and cancer. The situation is worrying as consumers are led to believe that these products are healthy because they are plant-based, while in reality, they are not”.

According to the #WHO/Europe, #PlantBased #Meat and #Milk substitutes are #UltraProcessedFoods. They harm #Health, having nothing to do with the #NutritionalValue of the #NaturalFood they claim to replace. Click To Tweet

As Dr. Kremlin Wickramasinghe, head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, explains: “Plant diets can be very different from one another and should not automatically be considered healthy. Major blind spots remain when it comes to the nutritional composition of these products and how they contribute to dietary quality and diversity. This lack of information prevents governments from forming effective policy guidance, with potentially negative consequences for population health“.

For this reason, the WHO/Europe recommends carrying out studies based on real-world dietary patterns to deliver a clear and coherent message. Therefore, it is necessary to analyse the nutritional content of plant-based substitutes of meat and milk and compare them with their animal-source equivalents. “This will help to have the required knowledge and transmit clear and evidence-based information,” concludes the WHO: “It will help build a strong and effective food policy to guide industry and consumers and assist policy-makers in developing evidence-based dietary guidelines. This is crucial when it comes to good health.”

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.