RATHER than focusing on whether animal sourced foods are necessary, a nuanced approach is needed to ensure there is balance between those who eat too much and those who receive too little.
Speaking at the TropAg 2019 conference in Brisbane, Lawrence Haddad, the executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, said it was the inequality in nutritious food that needed to be addressed.
"Many people eat far too much animal sourced food: too much for their health and too much for the planet's environmental health," Dr Haddad said.
It is the inequality in what people eat that needs to be addressed.
"But many also eat too little animal sourced food. Those who eat too much for their good health and who put unnecessary stress on the planet's environmental resources should eat less.
"Those who are undernourished with very monotonous diets would benefit from eating more."
Poor diets were linked to one in five deaths.
GAIN, a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation developed by the United Nations in 2002, is driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition.
According to the organisation one in three people worldwide suffered from some type of malnutrition, with every country having problems.
In addition, 821 million people globally did not get enough calories to stave off chronic hunger, and two billion people do not consume enough vitamins and minerals for healthy growth.
Dr Haddad said more worrying was that stunting and wasting affected 151 million children. This was linked with 45 per cent of all under three mortality, and poor diets were linked with 22pc of all premature adult mortality.
Children that are stunted at age three do significantly worse in school and are more likely to live in poverty as adults, he said.
Poor diets were also reflected in the two billion overweight and obese globally and the numbers are rising in virtually every country in the world.
"A number of recent reports on diets and food systems have generated a great deal of divisive debate about the role of animal source foods in the human diet.
"The media have latched on to these debates and have, in some cases, accentuated the divides," the South African-born British economist said. "It is the inequality in what people eat that needs to be addressed."
"(Animal source) foods are rich sources of micronutrients that are essential for young infant and child growth and are not available in other affordable foods for these populations who tend to be low income."