Two weeks ago, a group of 20 leading scientists and food systems experts met at our Finding Common Ground conference in Boston. Despite their varying views (from vegan to Paleo) of what constitutes a healthy diet, they listened to one another, debated passionately, then came to agreement on 11 points detailing what it means to eat and live well.

Why is this important in our everyday lives?    

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Eating and living healthfully are things each of us can control for our own health and benefit, and for the collective benefit of society, the environment, and our future.

In the news, we too often see tragedies and loss of life in situations beyond our control  — from mass shootings to desperate refugees, natural disasters, and more. Closer at hand, however, there’s tragic loss of life taking place in an area we can control: what we eat and how we live. David Katz, one of the scientific co-chairs of Finding Common Ground, cites established research showing that nearly 80% of premature deaths are tied to feet, fork, and fingers (lack of activity, unhealthy eating, and smoking). And since consumers say they are confused about what constitutes healthy eating, these 11 points of Common Ground Consensus are a very good starting point to unravel this confusion and inspire change that is good for each of us individually, for the planet we share, and for our children’s future.

(Yes, our children’s future. The Common Ground Scientists carefully considered our impact on the planet, too. Although the US government has decided to disregard the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and exclude sustainability from the upcoming Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we’re glad to hear that the organizers of the Paris Climate Summit are considering food and nutrition as they debate an accord on climate change. It is very exciting news that Walter Willett, chairman of the Harvard School of Public Health and the second scientific co-chair of Finding Common Ground, has been asked to come to Paris to discuss the impact of food production and consumption in climate change.)

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It’s important to note that the Common Ground Scientists don’t agree on everything; they all see the same forest, while each pays attention to different trees. Therefore, these common points of agreement focus on the big picture, rather than on the details of this nutrient or that vitamin. As Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School said, “When you combine healthy food in sensible ways, the nutrients will fall into the right places.”

At Oldways, we believe each of us can make a difference, collectively and individually, by eating healthfully, sustainably and traditionally. The Common Ground Consensus is just a start. In the coming weeks and months, Oldways will develop and post a number of resources for individuals, for journalists and for scientists — bringing practicality to the points of the Consensus. These include:

• The Oldways Common Ground Cart, a graphic image designed to help incorporate the principles of Common Ground into daily life

• A weekly “On Common Ground” blog post, with practical tips for everyone about each point of consensus plus articles on sustainability, animal welfare, culinary literacy, social welfare, and other consensus topics

• Podcasts and videos of the conference proceedingsF

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or journalists specifically, our Oldways Science & Media Clearinghouse is already up and running, with most of the scientists from the conference pledging to make themselves available to help the media write accurate and compelling stories about nutrition. Going forward, we’ll be adding more scientists regularly, and adding new online tools to make it even easier to link journalists with experts. Check out the list of scientists and topics on our website. We will also be collaborating with the True Health Initiative, a campaign (spearheaded by David Katz) whose vision and beliefs complement Oldways’ Common Ground project.

Food and eating are essential elements of our lives, community, and culture. I think the 4th point of consensus sums it up perfectly:

Food can and should be:

• Good for human health.

• Good for the planet.

• And simply… good — unapologetically delicious.

That’s something we can all agree on!

Sara Baer-Sinnott, Oldways President

This is the second in a series of 13 weekly blogs about the Oldways Common Ground Consensus.


Jane Evans
Why so many men at the helm agreeing upon what is good for us in terms of nutrition? Where are the women in this field of "leading scientists and food systems experts"? I see nine men, and unless the remainder of the group is predominantly women, I see a problem. Perhaps the lack of women in these roles has something to do with the mess we are in in terms of our food chain and the power government and large companies has on the majority of what passes as good nutrition in this country.
We agree ! We'd love to see more men in leading roles in nutrition science. Most of the registered dietitians and media representatives who were part of our Common Ground conference were women, but the researchers were mostly men. Who are your female nutrition heroes?

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