Mission of the Food Pill Diet: Improve Health & Planet
In the summer of 2017, Dan and Andrew were both accepted to Singularity's Global Solutions Program. The Google-funded program brought 90 of the smartest and most accomplished people from all over the world to live in the heart of Silicon Valley, on the NASA Ames Research Base.
The goal was simple: How can we leverage exponential technologies to solve climate change.
Dan and Andrew began collaborating on a low temperature geothermal concept – which utilized proprietary materials that underwent a phase-change at optimized temperatures in a closed-loop system – with the intent to provide clean, renewable base-load power to the electricity grid.
The team was not able to secure grant funding. Despite this setback, Dan and Andrew continued to look for innovative ways to combat climate change and it was here, during this pivot, that the Food Pill Diet was born.
Working Toward a Solution
The overconsumption of animal-based products, including meat and dairy, is associated with high rates of obesity, adverse health conditions, and the increased risk of acquiring numerous non-communicable diseases.
These include, but are not limited to, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, dementia, and certain types of cancer.
Studies have demonstrated that populations subsisting on diets that are high in dietary fiber and plant material are healthier and have longer life expectancies than those consuming a richer, more meat-centric Western diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of Americans – over 93 million people – are obese. Obesity is defined by the CDC as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30. In addition to the obvious negative health effects of obesity, the economic impact is staggering, with annual medical costs associated with obesity climbing to over US $190 billion dollars.
The population of Americans that are considered overweight, which the CDC defines as having a BMI of 25 to 30, is now at 74.1%. On a global scale, it is estimated that at least 30% of the world’s population is now overweight, which is reducing the quality and length of people’s lives, while at the same time draining national resources with medical costs that continue to rise.
Impact of Diet Choices on the Planet
In addition to the negative effects on human health, the overconsumption of animal-based foods has also played an important role in accelerating global warming and overall environmental decay. The global consumption of meat is forecast to grow 76% over current levels by mid-century. Indeed, as incomes rise in the developing world, so too does meat consumption. In the developed world, although meat consumption has plateaued, it still remains two to three times higher than recommended. In aggregate, these consumption patterns are incompatible with any strategy to control climate change.
Although strategies articulated to combat climate change rightly highlight the need to reduce the fossil fuel emissions that power our global economy, there is decidedly less discussion about how our food choices impact climate change. Consider the fact that livestock are responsible for 7.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases per year – equal to the tailpipe emissions from every vehicle on the plant.
Indeed, if 50 percent of the world’s population were to reduce meat consumption overall, at least 26.7 gigatons of greenhouse emissions could be avoided. If we were to include the possibility of converting land previously used to for livestock back into carbon negative forests, an additional 39.3 gigatons of emissions could be avoided.
Sustainability and Resilience
Strategies designed to create changes in our food choices, which would implicitly address unsustainable meat production and consumption, should form a core component of the international community’s drive to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Food Pill Diet is positioned to help drive that change. Policy-makers should emphasize the importance of a global reduction in meat consumption to fostering sustainable, equitable resource use across all sectors.
Consider the fact that close to 70 percent of the planet’s agricultural land is used for animal pasture. Beef production alone uses about three fifths of global farmland but yields less than 5 percent of the world’s protein.
In the United States, between pastures and cropland used to produce feed, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock.
Meat production also consumes a lot of water. Agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s available freshwater, and one third of that is used to grow the grain fed to livestock.
Beef is by far the most water-intensive of all meats. The more than 15,000 liters of water needed to produce one kilogram of beef far exceeds what is required by a number of staple foods, such as rice (3,400 liters per kg) or potatoes (255 liters).
Worldwide, more than 40 percent of wheat, rye, oats, and corn production is fed to livestock, along with 250 million tons of soybeans and other oilseeds. Feeding grain to livestock improves their fertility and growth, but it sets up a de facto competition for food between cattle and people.
Where does the Food Pill Diet fit in?
Shifting to plant-based diets would greatly reduce the risk of adverse health conditions, while at the same time help control the negative effects of climate change. That said, making the shift – precipitating a fundamental change in people’s consumption patterns – has proven time and again to be a monumental challenge.
The Food Pill Diet is an innovative system that has proven to be successful in helping more people adopt plant-based diets, thus allowing them to lose weight, live healthier lifestyles, and play a positive role in preserving the planet for future generations.
When considering the future of antibiotic resistant superbugs, this scenario becomes closer to reality given the heavy doses of antibiotics used to speed animal growth and reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak in cramped, industrial meat facilities. In the United States alone, 13,600 tons of antibiotics were sold for use in livestock operations in 2011 – almost four times the amount used to treat sick people.
Indeed, more than 62 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States in 2013 used for animal production were classified as medically important to humans. Tetracycline, for example, is frequently used on hogs, but is also an effective treatment for Lyme disease, stomach ulcers, urinary, skin, and respiratory infections, and cholera.
(Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)
As incredibly high as it is, it pales in comparison to the more than 100,000 tons used in China’s meat production facilities, setting the stage for a potential disease outbreak of historical proportions.