University pushes plant-based diet

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Make the most of what your fertile land can produce, and in the process have a healthier student body and an environment more conducive to learning and living. With this principle in mind, the Tarlac State University signed on Oct. 17 a memorandum of agreement with nongovernment organization Luntiang Lunes Inc. (Meatless Monday-Philippines) to promote the Luntiang Lunes Schools, a vegetarian and brown rice initiative campaign.

The university, located on Romulo Boulevard in Tarlac City, was represented by its president Dr. Priscilla C. Viuya, while Luntiang Lunes was represented by its founder neuroscientist Custer C. Deocaris.

The MOA indicated a host of information on the role of meat and animal products in affecting public health and climate change; historical information on Meatless Monday and the related instruments by the United Nations; and the scientific bases for the advocacy, which rests on the neuroscience of fast-food addiction and habit formation.

Deocaris said this national campaign is unique, as it is not only run by teachers and scientists, but also since this would be the first health campaign in the country to be operating based on principles of neuroscience.

Memo of agreement

The MOA states that: 1) Livestock production has now been considered a key driver of climate change, as was first recognized in the UN-FAO report “Livestock’s Long Shadow in 2006”; 2) The per capita green house gas emissions (GHG) need to fall below 1 metric ton per year by 2050 to prevent a potentially catastrophic global surface temperature increase of 20°C as declared by the 2009 Copenhagen Convention; 3) As of 2000, the livestock sector alone had already occupied 52 percent of humanity’s suggested safe operating space for anthropogenic GHG, and; 4) Rice in our diet is also a contributor to GHG emission, as it was estimated that for every kilo of white rice, approximately 1.4 kilos of CO2-eq is released.

It also said dietary behavior has been among the most difficult habits to change; that most health promotion campaigns fail due to lack of a compliance component for setting realistic goals and reinforcements, and that “Monday,” among the days in the week, would have the greatest potential to serve as a tool to bolster long-term campaigns.

Lowest vegetable intake

The MOA also revealed that in 2008 the Philippines had the lowest annual per capita intake of vegetables in Asia, with only 39 kg, as compared to China’s 250 kg. When ranked according to each country’s per capita intake of vegetables, the country fell within the lowest quartile alongside with nations from Africa (Rwanda—42 kg, Malawi—47 kg, and Ethiopia—25 kg).

Accordingly, the WHO/FAO expert consultation report on diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic diseases, stated that the recommended intake should be a minimum 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day (or 69 kg per year). Approximately 1.7 million (2.8 percent) deaths worldwide are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption. Increasing intakes to at least five servings a day can help prevent 14 percent of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, 11 percent of ischemic heart disease deaths and 9 percent of stroke deaths.

The MOA also said brown rice can help save the environment. It is recognized that brown rice is more environment-friendly, as fuel savings is estimated to be 50-60 percent because the polishing and whitening steps are eliminated,” the MOA explained.

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