Depleting the World Apple Reserves?

Readers of this blog may be interested in a recent thought-provoking article by University of Toronto’s David Jenkins and colleagues titled, “Are dietary recommendations for the use of fish oils sustainable?” published in this week’s edition of CMAJ.

In this article, Jenkins not only reviews the literature on the questionable benefits of the widely promoted fish oils, but also points out that, “even at current levels of fish consumption, fisheries globally have reached a state of severe crisis”. If all humans were to actually increase their consumption of fish-oils to recommended levels, we would soon see the complete collapse of the oceans’ fish reserves. As he further elaborates, fish farming is not a reasonable alternative and, indeed, it turns out that there is in fact no reasonable way for all of mankind to increase their intake of fish (or fish oil) to the recommended levels.

This got me thinking that probably the same could be said for the recommended fruit and vegetable consumption. Thus, if all Canadians were to actually eat 5-9 servings of fruit and veggies every day, we’d be consuming around 150 – 270 Million portions of fruit or veggies a day (or for e.g. 30,000 to 54,000 metric tons of apples @200g a piece if everyone were to eat 5-9 apples a day).

I am sure someone could do the exact math on this, but my guess is that this is nowhere near the amount of fruit and veggies that Canada could reasonably produce even in a good year (forget about the Winters). You’d probably need miles of green houses, city blocks of cold storage, and convoys of trucks carting the stuff around, so that this would not even make ecological sense.

I wonder if we need to now start reviewing all our dietary recommendations in terms of what makes sense not just for the health of individuals but also for the health of the planet?

Interestingly, David Jenkins, was also the co-author on a recent study on the health benefits of following a vegan diet consisting largely of vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes (J Am Diet Assoc.). I’d like to see him follow up his vegan study with an ecological calculation of what would happen if 30 Million Canadians suddenly all decided to go vegan (not likely to happen in Alberta – but nevertheless a fascinating exercise).

Please feel free to correct me, if you think I am totally off the mark on this one.

Edmonton, Alberta