Does planetary health mean population health? Adherence to a planetary health diet and cancer risk and survival in a prospective cohort study

Background: More and more people are increasingly interested in plant-based diets (i.e., diets rich in plant-based products that include little, if any, animal products). Apart from their potential health benefits, plant-based diets have been promoted as environmentally sustainable. However, the abundance of non-scientific information online about the health impact of plant-based diets, with its wide range of credibility, is confusing to the public and can, at times, paint plant-based diets in an unfavorable light. Recently, international experts of the influential EAT-Lancet Commission recommended a mostly plant-based, sustainable diet referred to as the ‘Planetary Health Diet’. Aims and Objectives: The current study aims to investigate if individuals adhering to the planetary health diet proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission are at a lower risk for cancer. Additionally, we will investigate if cancer survivors who adhere to the planetary health diet have lower risk of premature death compared to cancer survivors who do not adhere to the planetary health diet. We predict that people (i.e., both cancer-free and cancer survivors) who closely follow the planetary health diet will have lower risk for cancer and will live longer than those who do not closely follow the planetary health diet. How It Will Be Done: For our analysis, we will use data from the United Kingdom (UK) Biobank study. The UK Biobank study contains detailed information from 500,000 people. It includes information about their general health, dietary habits, and lifestyle recorded between 2006 and 2010 from 22 centers throughout the UK. Study participants were followed over time. Newly diagnosed cancers, as well incidences of death, were recorded. This study is a unique resource for comprehensive and powerful analyses on the potential human health benefits of a mostly plant-based, environmentally sustainable diet. Having access to such a large dataset from a European population would allow us to determine the relationship between the planetary health diet with cancer risk and death – both overall, and for specific, common cancers (i.e., breast, colorectal, prostate). Potential Impact: The information available online about the health impact of plant-based diets, with its astounding range of credibility and scientific basis, is confusing to the public and can paint plant-based diets in an unfavorable light. An influential group of international nutrition experts recently recommended a mainly plant-based diet for its benefits to the environment and human health. This recommendation gained enormous reach in the media. However, the effects of this diet on health, and particularly cancer, have yet to be evaluated. The proposed work, using data from an existing European-based cohort, will result in high-quality evidence and peer-reviewed scientific publication(s) that will bring clarity to both the public and major stakeholders regarding the health impact of the planetary health diet on cancer risk and premature death.