Blue foods — those that come from ocean or freshwater environments — have great potential to help tackle a number of global challenges. By leveraging policies to carefully implement these foods, nations could boost efforts to reduce nutritional deficiencies, reduce disease risk, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure resilience to climate change .
So say the team of experts at Blue Food Assessment, an international collaboration of scientists focused on the role of aquatic foods in global food systems. In a paper published today in the journal naturescientists reveal the benefits on a global scale of adding more blue food to the world’s diet.
“Although people around the world rely on and enjoy seafood, the potential of these blue foods to benefit people and the environment remains largely underappreciated,” said UC Santa Barbara marine ecologist Ben Halpern, director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis and her staff member. “With this work, we draw attention to these many possibilities and the transformative advantage that blue foods can have for people’s lives and the environments in which they live.”
Based on the landmark Blue Food Assessment, this study synthesizes and translates the assessment findings across four policy objectives relating to nutrition, health environment and livelihoods. The research team reports that aquatic foods are rich in many essential nutrients, especially vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, of which deficiencies are relatively high worldwide, particularly in African and South American nations. An increase in the intake of blue foods in these areas could reduce malnutrition, especially in the case of vulnerable populations such as young children and the elderly, pregnant women and women of child bearing age.
Meanwhile, a high incidence of cardiovascular disease – a condition associated with excessive consumption of red meat – is found mainly in rich, developed countries in North America and Europe. Promoting more freshwater or marine seafood could displace some of the consumption of red and processed meat and reduce the risks and rates of developing heart disease.
More blue food could lead to a more environmentally friendly and sustainable food system. Because aquatic food production puts much lower environmental pressures than terrestrial meat production, a shift towards more blue foods could reduce the toll that terrestrial livestock (especially ruminants such as cows, sheep and goats) take on the world.
According to the researchers, carefully developed aquaculture, mariculture and fishing also provide employment opportunities and can ensure the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
With the thoughtful implementation of blue food policies that lower the barriers to blue food production and access, countries could reap multiple benefits at the same time, leading to healthier people and a healthier food system sustainable there, as well as a better ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. But not all countries will benefit equally.
“Blue foods can play an important role in our diets, societies and economies, but what this looks like will vary greatly from one country and locale to another,” said lead study author Beatrice Crona, professor at the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University and co-chair of the Blue Food Assessment. “Our goal is for policy makers to understand the multifaceted contributions that blue foods can make, but also to consider the trade-offs that must be negotiated to make the most of the opportunities that blue foods provide. “
To that end, the team provides an online tool, where users can see the relevance of policy objectives around the world in the fields of nutrition, heart disease, environment and climate resilience.
“By further customizing the various parameters in the online tool, decision makers can explore the blue food policies most relevant to their national location and use the paper to encourage blue food policies that can address environmental challenges” and overcome existing nutrients,” said Jim Leape, co-. director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, a key partner in the Blue Food Assessment.
This study is the latest in a series of peer-reviewed papers written by the Blue Food Assessment team in an effort to understand the potential for blue foods in the current and future global food system, and help shape policy and lead that shape the future. of food.
“It was great to work closely with the large, international team of different experts in the Blue Food Assessment,” said Halpern. “The integration and synthesis of all the ideas and knowledge that arose from this work, and that we tried to capture in this paper, is really exciting.”