In January 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission defined a universal reference diet to promote human and environmental health. However, in doing so, the potential consequences for brain health were not considered. Whilst plant-based diets are generally associated with better cognitive and affective outcomes, those that severely limit animal products are not. Therefore, the potential ramifications of the EAT-Lancet diet on cognition, mood, and heart rate variability were considered (N = 328). Adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) was associated with having a better mood, focused attention, working and episodic memory, and higher heart rate variability. However, when the EAT-Lancet diet was considered, the effects were either smaller or not significant. Cluster analysis identified a dietary style characterised by a strong adherence to the EAT-Lancet recommendation to limit meat intake, representing a sixth of the present sample. This group had a lower Mean Adequacy Ratio (MAR); did not meet the Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) for a range of nutrients including protein, selenium, zinc, iron, and folate; and reported a poorer mood. These data highlight the potential unintended consequences of the EAT-Lancet recommendations for nutritional adequacy and affective health in some individuals. There is a need to better optimise the EAT-Lancet diet to support brain health. As we move towards more sustainable diets, these findings emphasise the need to consider how such diets might affect the brain.
Keywords: EAT–Lancet diet; cluster analysis; cognition; heart rate variability; mood; sustainability.