Majority of EAT-Lancet Authors (>80%) Favored Vegan/Vegetarian Diets

By, Nina Teicholz
January 24, 2019

The EAT-Lancet report, published by The Lancet last week, has been presented as the product of 37 scientists from around the world who gathered to evaluate the science on diet and both  human health and the health of the planet. These are separate scientific questions that each deserve careful evaluation.

It’s important to note that there are significant scientific controversies on both these questions. On diet and health, I can safely say that there is an enormous amount of legitimate scientific dispute surrounding the question of whether a plant-based diet is best for health and also whether minimizing red meat in the diet is healthy or even safe. The best, most rigorous (clinical trial) evidence supports the idea that red meat does not cause any kind of disease. There are also a number of analyses showing that diets low in animal foods are nutritionally deficient, thereby increasing the risk of many diseases and interfering with normal growth and brain development in children.

Evaluating the science on any subject requires convening a range of viewpoints so that scientific controversies can be fairly evaluated and discussed. Presumably The Lancet, an old and venerable journal, knows this. And yet an examination of the EAT-Lancet authors reveals that more than 80% of them (31 out of 37) espoused vegetarian views before joining the EAT-Lancet project.

This was clearly a highly biased group, and the outcome of their report was therefore inevitably a foregone conclusion. Convening a one-sided group on a topic cannot be expected to produce a balanced outcome. It would be like pretending to negotiate an agreement in Congress with only one party at the table. Like-minded people talking to themselves is not a scientific debate, and the product of these inbred conversations cannot be considered a scientific product.

Also, authors usually disclose their potential conflicts of interest when publishing. Clearly some of the conflicts listed below are “intellectual” rather than financial (and hence, not usually disclosed although at least one eminent scientist has well argued that they should be), but in many cases, the authors’ potential conflicts involve their place of employment, in think tanks that promote vegetarian diets and/or meat reduction. If one’s salary/livelihood depends upon supporting a certain point of view, this is arguably a very strong potential conflict of interest.

The leader on diet and health for EAT-Lancet was Harvard’s Walter Willett, whose potential conflicts of interest are too extensive to list in this post. They include intellectual and financial conflicts, as well as affiliations with vegetarian groups, all of which are contained in a separate 8-page document here.

None of these potential conflicts of interest are disclosed in the Lancet paper, which seems to be an extraordinary oversight.

Here are two emails for The Lancet if you would like to contribute your views on this issue: ombudsman@lancet.com, editorial@lancet.com

A list of the EAT-Lancet authors and their potential conflicts of interest are below.

EAT-Lancet Authors

Authors in red are those who have, through their work, been promoting vegetarian, anti-meat views since before joining the EAT-Lancet Commission.

  1. Ashkan Afshin.Assistant Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington (http://www.healthdata.org/about/ashkan-afshin)
  1. Rina Agustina,Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Indonesia (https://eatforum.org/lancet-commissioner/rina-agustina/)
  • No information on diet.
  1. Victoria Bignet,PhD student with particular focus on sustainable and healthy diets, Stockholm Resilience Centre (https://www.stockholmresilience.org/contact-us/staff/2014-03-12-bignet.html)
  • One of seven EAT-Lancet authors from this Stockholm Centre, including its director, which publishes numerous documents describing meat consumption as a major threat to the environment.
  1. Francesco Branca,Director, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD), World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/nutrition/about_us/brancaf/en/)
  1. Abhishek Chaudhary, Assistant Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington (https://eatforum.org/lancet-commissioner/ashkan-afshin/)
  • Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6-10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70%. PNAS April 12, 2016 113 (15) 4146-4151 (Mar. 21, 2016)
  1. Michael ClarkUniversity of Minnesota Natural Resources Science and Management, University of Minnesota; Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention (https://eatforum.org/initiatives/the-eat-lancet-commission/commissioners/)
  • Co-authored a letter saying, “plant-based foods have the lowest environmental impacts; eggs, dairy, pork, poultry, non-trawling fisheries, and non-recirculating aquaculture have intermediate impacts; and ruminant meat has impacts ~100 times those of plant-based foods.” Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 064016 (Jun. 16, 2017; received Dec. 28, 2016)
  1. Sarah E Cornellresearcher in global sustainability science, Stockholm Resilience Centre, https://www.stockholmresilience.org/contact-us/staff/2011-11-01-cornell.html
  • One of seven EATLancet members from this Stokholm Centre, including its director, which publishes numerous documents describing meat consumption as a major threat to the environment.
  1. Beatrice CronaAssociate professor, deputy science director, Stockholm Resilience Centre (https://www.stockholmresilience.org/contact-us/staff/2008-08-19-crona.html)
  • One of seven EAT-Lancet members from this Stockholm Centre, including its director, which publishes numerous documents describing meat consumption as a major threat to the environment.
  1. Fabrice DeClerck, Senior Scientist, Agricultural Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity International (https://www.bioversityinternational.org/about-us/who-we-are/staff-bios/single-details-bios/declerck-fabrice/)
  • Serves on the advisory board of Menus of Change, a group dedicated “To accelerate the move among American consumers—and college students, faculty, and staff in particular—towards healthier, more sustainable, plant-forward diets.“ Menus of Change advises Americans “to reduce consumption of red and processed meats,” says that “higher intake of red meat, irrespective of its total fat content, increases risks of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” that vegetables and nuts be “used as a substitute for other protein sources, such as red meat,” “red meats have an outsized impact on the land, water, and climate,” meat has “significant impacts on human health,” and that meat contributes to the “risk of chronic diseases and premature death.” http://www.menusofchange.org/images/uploads/pages/CIA-Harvard_MenusofChange_AnnualReport_2015a.pdf
  • Contributed to a report whose central argument is that people should eat less meat. It asks, should people “be voicing concerns about.;..the appropriateness or otherwise of a meat-rich diet?” TEEB for Agriculture & Food Interim Report, http://img.teebweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/TEEBAgFood_Interim_Report_2015_web.pdf(Dec. 2015)
  1. Wim De Vries, Professor, Wageningen University & Research (https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Wim-prof.dr.ir.-W-Wim-de-Vries.htm)
  • No information on diet.
  1. Shenggen Fan, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute (http://www.ifpri.org/profile/shenggen-fan)
  • His organization has published numerous articles promoting a tax on meat and elaborating on the problems of excessive meat.
  1. Jessica FanzoDirector, Johns Hopkins Global Food Ethics and Policy Program Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Global Food & Agricultural Policy and Ethics Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Dept. of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (https://bioethics.jhu.edu/people/profile/jessica-fanzo/)
  1. Elizabeth Fox,Hecht-Levi Fellow with the Berman Institute of Bioethics of Johns Hopkins University, working in the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program (GFEPP) with Jessica Fanzo (http://www.bioethicsinstitute.org/people/elizabeth-fox)
  1. Tara Garnett, Founder and Director, Food Climate Research Network, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food (http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk/people/tara-garnett)
  • Wrote a report stating “The current demand for animal products is simply not sustainable and enormous harm is being done in the attempt to meet it. We have to change.” https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/observations/2017/11/why-i-became-vegan-and-why-you-should-too
  • “Broadly speaking eating fewer meat and dairy products and consuming more plant foods in their place is probably the single most helpful behavioral shift one can make to reduce food -related greenhouse gas emissions” https://www.vegkitchen.com/the-role-of-eating-animals-in-climate-change/(Date unknown)
  1. Line J GordonDirector, Stockholm Resilience Centre. This center, which has numerous anti-meat publications, has more than one member on the EATLancet report. (https://www.stockholmresilience.org/contact-us/staff/2008-01-08-gordon.html)
  1. Corinna HawkesProfessor of Food Policy & Director Centre for Food Policy, City University of London (https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/corinna-hawkes)
  1. Mario Herrero, Chief Research Scientist and Office of the Chief Executive Science Leader at CSIRO Agriculture and Food and Honorary Professor of Agriculture and Food Systems at the University of Queensland, Australia (https://people.csiro.au/H/M/Mario-Herrero)
  1. Malin JonellPostdoctoral Researcher, Stockholm Resilience Centre (https://www.stockholmresilience.org/contact-us/staff/2017-02-27-jonell.html)
  • One of seven EAT-Lancet members from this Stockholm Centre (including its director) which publishes numerous documents describing meat consumption as a major threat to the environment.
  1. Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University of London (https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/tim-lang)
  • “The mountains of meat which US manufacturers, caterers and consumers deem to be normal portion sizes come at an environmental, not just health cost. Vast tracts of land grow grain, drawing deep on water and oil/ energy reserves, fed to cattle in huge lots. The system produces cheap meat, but for how much longer and at what blindness to sustainability? Meat and dairy are as complicated and contentious for environmental analysis as they are for public health nutrition. Think only of the metaphorical blood spilled over their position in the US healthy eating pyramid.” Public Health Nutrition: 12(4), 581–583 (Apr. 1, 2009)
  • Questioned questioned whether “Might [meat and dairy] rationing be needed. . .” Proc Nutr Soc. 2013 Feb;72(1) (Feb. 2013).
  1. Anna Lartey, President of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, Director of Nutrition at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (http://www.iuns.org/people/prof-anna-lartey/)
  1. Therese Lindahl, Researcher, the Beijer Institute (http://www.beijer.kva.se/staff_under.php?id=26)
  1. Brent Loken,Science Liaison Officer between Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment, and EAT Foundation (https://www.cfse.cam.ac.uk/directory/brent_loken)
  • No information on diet.
  1. Christopher J L Murray,Director, IHME Director, Chair, Department of Health Metrics Sciences (http://www.healthdata.org/about/christopher-jl-murray)
  • IHME runs a huge research project on global burdens of disease. It defines “The ideal diet [as] high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds – and low in salt, trans fats, processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages.” http://www.healthdata.org/infographic/healthy-eating
  1. Sunita Narain, Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment, treasurer of the Society for Environmental Communications and editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth. (https://www.cseindia.org/page/sunita-narain)
  1. Sania Nishtar, Co-chairs the WHO High Level Global Commission on NCDs, Co-chair of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Improving Global Quality of Healthcare, .Co-chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on the Future of Health and Healthcare, Chair of the Advisory Board of the United Nations University International Institute of Global Health (http://www.sanianishtar.info/about-sania-nishtar/)
  • Recommended reduced intake of animal fats and production of white meat over red, for environmental reasons. http://www.heartfile.org/blog/3533 (Nov. 25. 2014)
  1. K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India,an Adjunct Professor of the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University and Honorary Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney (https://phfi.org/member/prof-k-srinath-reddy/)
  • “Reduced red meat consumption” will help mitigate climate change. https://www.slideshare.net/Glo_PAN/k-srinath-reddy-milton-j-rosenau-lecture-boston-sept-25-2015 (Sep. 25, 2015)
  1. Juan A RiveraFounding Director of the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health at the National Institute of Public Health, a Professor of Nutrition at the School of Public Health of Mexico and an adjunct professor at the Rollins School of Public Health in Emory University (http://www.globalobesity.org/about-the-gopc/our-people/_archive-scientific-advisory-board/juan-rivera.html)
  • No information on diet.
  1. Johan Rockström, Professor in environmental science, Stockholm Resilience Centre (https://www.stockholmresilience.org/contact-us/staff/2008-01-16-rockstrom.html)
  • One of seven EAT-Lancet members from this Stockholm Centre, including its director, which publishes numerous documents describing meat consumption as a major threat to the environment.
  1. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Vice President for Country Support, Policy and Delivery, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Vice President for Country Support, Policy and Delivery, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) (https://www.weforum.org/people/lindiwe-majele-sibanda)
  1. Sudhvir Sing, Policy Director, EAT (https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/alumni/our-alumni/40-under-40/40-under-40–influencers0/sudhvir-singh.html)
  1. Marco Springman, James Martin Fellow, Oxform Martin School (http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk/people/marco-springmann)
  1. David Tilman, Regents Professor, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, University of Minnesota (https://cbs.umn.edu/contacts/g-david-tilman)
  • Advised plant-based diets over those with animal proteins, in a talk presented at the First International Conference on Global Food Security. https://canwefeedtheworld.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/going-vegetarian-the-answer-to-the-worlds-problems/ (Nov. 8, 2013)
  • Wrote that diets that include meat, “if unchecked, would be a major contributor to an estimated 80 per cent increase in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from food production and to global land clearing.” Nature volume 515, pages 518–522 (Nov. 27. 2014)
  1. Max Troell, Associate Professor, Beijer Institute (http://www.beijer.kva.se/staff_under.php?id=21)
  • This center has been a supporter of EAT-Lancet from the start.
  • Troell focuses on sustainable fish populations.
  1. Sonja Vermeulen, Global Food Lead Scientist, Global Science, World Wildlife Fund (https://www.worldwildlife.org/experts/sonja-vermeulen)
  1. Walter Willett, former chair, Harvard Chan School of Public Health
  1. Amanda Wood, Researcher, Stockholm Resilience Centre (https://www.stockholmresilience.org/contact-us/staff/2017-02-27-wood.html)
  • One of seven EAT-Lancet members from this Stockholm Centre, including its director, which publishes numerous documents describing meat consumption as a major threat to the environment.
  1. Rami ZuraykProfessor of Ecosystem Management in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut, co-founder of the Association for Lebanese Organic Agriculture and of Slow Food Beirut, member of the Conflicts and Protracted Crisis Working Group of the Civil Society Mechanism of the Committee on Food Security (https://eatforum.org/lancet-commissioner/rami-zurayk/)
  • Utilization of food, and particularly of animal-sourced foods (ASF), from evolving and increasingly complex food supply chains, is having profound effects on human health and well-being, in some cases supplying much needed nutrients but in others giving rise to dietary concerns, for example over excessive meat intake. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5795e.pdf(Jul, 2016)

Please feel free to report errors or missed information in the comments section, and I will endeavor to update/correct as quickly as possible.

Jan 27: Updated to correct information on Tara Garnett.

19 thoughts on “Majority of EAT-Lancet Authors (>80%) Favored Vegan/Vegetarian Diets”

  1. Thanks for shining a light on the story behind the story. Do these people not realise that most of their ‘saintly’ vegetables only exist because bees are shipped in to these fields by the lorry load and forced to gorge on acres of the same nectar in order to pollenate. Cattle and sheep on the other hand can exist on grass. Free grass.

    • Vegetables and fruit are also shipped long distances to non-temperate climates all year ’round. I wonder if these calculations are included in the carbon footprint of these foods. In general, this science seems highly biased to me and infiltrated by group think.

  2. Excellent work here. In addition to these tacit commitments that result in bias, the further tendency here to found dietary recommendation on another bias (that human beings are responsible for atmospheric global warming, i.e., climate change) is curious, if not additionally suspect. Climate awareness is venerable, but asserting “avoid red meat=saving the climate” is spurious.

    • Isn’t it interesting: if you cannot solve one scientific question, i.e., how to help people lose weight, then confound it with further questions, i.e., how can you help people lose weight in the context of climate change? It seems to me impossible to move to the second and conflate scientific issues when you have not solved the first. What they seem to have decided, a priori, is that red meat is to blame. It’s scientifically without foundation.

  3. It wasn’t enough to destroy U.S. health with the 1977 McGovern commission, now they want to destroy the health of the entire world (and I include the planet’s ecology in this). Arrogance at it’s absolute apex.

  4. so you are not biased then Nina? Where does your funding come from, the same place Gary Taubes gets his funding by any chance? Also, if these 31 scientists were convinced that eating plants was healthy, why would they recommend it?

    • All researchers develop bias in the fields that the study, because they grow to have opinions about the material. That is normal and natural. What ought to happen on a scientific paper or panel, is for members to be balanced, so that biases are managed. This is a well-known practice but did not happen with EAT. I have a job, so that’s where I get some funding, plus some public speaking. Which is hardly the point here.(I don’t know where Gary Taubes gets his funding–maybe ask him)

  5. Please note that the comment I made about the Commissioners reviewing the Eat-Lancet paper was in response to someone who had ‘tweeted’ that the paper had been influenced by the processed food industry. It was not meant to imply that the Lancet had not done its usual peer review. I have made this clear repeatedly but it seems that some people don’t want to hear it.

    • Thanks, Rosemary. I posted on twitter the whole exchange which shows that there was not accusation of the paper having been influenced by the processed food industry. Commenters were objecting to your statements on nutrition, and you replied that the paper had been “peer reviewed by the Commissioners.” Having consulted with BMJ, we now know this was a mistake on your part.

  6. Hello Nina,

    What do you think about the Cochrane review in 2015 that shows Sat fat increased CVD events by 17%? It was a meta-analysis of RCT’s.

    And do you think that Trans fat is bad?

    And agreed bias is so hard to tease out and just disclosing it may not mean much.

    Thank you.

  7. Thank you for the article. I am not sure many would say that stroke , heart disease, and heart attacks are “soft” end points. I see your point though.

    What about transfat? Are those to be avoided?

  8. I wonder if it would satisfy the environmentalists if we encouraged meat from animals fed on organic, non-GMO food and grazing when possible. Organic grass, of course! I saw objection to massive growing of grain for animal feed, and I think that could be addressed with my suggestion. Also, if we had all our food as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, would that be able to feed all the people in the world? Would that be good for the environment – i.e., no depletion of the water and soil and no chemicals needed that would harm the environment? I think it’s simplistic to put out recommendations that are clearly not available to low income populations – probably most people in the world. Look at the best nutrition recommendations for human health and figure out how to mesh that with the planet’s health.

  9. Thank you for pointing out the obvious yet still overlooked fact of clear bias on the part of EAT. As a graduating college student (this May) finishing my BA in Nutrition and Dietetics, I have been surprised how much I was taught to discourage meat/animal consumption with little basis for it. I have researched the literature for many projects during my time in school and have concluded like you that animal derived proteins are not the problem. Even this panel blaming meat consumption for all of our ills is not getting the point. While they have valid points on recommendations that people need to eat more vegetables, nuts & seeds, they make no mention of the clear problem at the heart of poor health -the excessive consumption of processed corn, wheat, and sugar. If we look at any reasonable recommendation for eating healthy it is to shop only the perimeters of the grocery store. This is where the fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, and fish are located. The middle aisles are packed to the gills with sugar-laden cereals, bars, crackers, grains, desserts, sweeteners, flours, treats, canned foods, bottled concentrated juices and drinks. These are heavily processed full of sugar and calories and a shelf life that many microbes wouldn’t touch. A diet in nutritious minimally processed vegetables, some fruit, and wild caught or pasture raised animal products is what needs to happen. Just curious how all the plant fields, energy, and water used in the production of these processed plant foods factor in on our planets climate issue.

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