South African diabetes study to feature on global stage at UN Climate Change Conference


Local researchers to present results of SA’s first-ever diabetes reversal challenge using plant-based nutrition

Climate change is the single biggest global health threat. This is a sentiment shared by a group of South African health science researchers who will be presenting the findings of the country’s first-ever plant-based diabetes reversal challenge during the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, next month.

This presentation will form part of the first Food4Climate Pavilion, organised by several stakeholders and is dedicated to the plight to transform global food systems. The South African researchers hope that this study will aid in placing the spotlight on how Africa will respond to the challenges associated with a warming planet. 

Dr Nanine Wyma, Programmes Manager at ProVeg South Africa and Managing Director at the Physicians Association for Nutrition (PAN) South Africa, will be presenting the findings during the one day solely dedicated to discussing the health co-benefits of plant-based food system transformation. 

This multi-media presentation will tell the story of the first implementation study using plant-based nutrition for diabetes in South Africa. Researchers at PAN South Africa gathered information from 10 diabetics and their physicians who followed a whole food plant-based challenge over 21 days. The side event includes evidence from a multiple-case pilot study complemented by documentary footage.

The study included participants from urban, peri-urban, informal settlements, and rural areas, including the Western Cape (Cape Town, Nyanga, Imizama Yethu, Bonteheuwel), Gauteng (Sandton, Springs, Kempton Park), and Mpumalanga (Napier).

“Not only did we get information from the diabetics who followed the plant-based challenge, but we also interviewed their healthcare providers,” said Wyma. “This gives us insight into how we can implement plant-based nutrition in both public and private healthcare settings.”

“Using plant-based nutrition to manage chronic diseases has been shown to be effective in many countries around the world. But we cannot simply copy and paste interventions from the Global North. South Africa is incredibly unique and we must pursue research on how these interventions can be applied within a local context. This is not only an opportunity for improved healthcare in South Africa but the rest of the continent as well.”

About the Food4Climate Pavillion

The urgent need to transform global food systems will be front and centre at COP27, the UN climate summit, in Egypt next month thanks to the presence of the Food4Climate Pavilion, one of the first dedicated Pavilions to food system change. 

The Food4Climate Pavilion has been organised to highlight the critical, yet overlooked, need to transform our global food system to tackle climate change. It is supported by ProVeg International, PAN South Africa, Compassion in World Farming, Food Tank, FOUR PAWS, IPES-Food, A Well-Fed World, and 16 other NGOs, think tanks and commercial companies (listed below).

Science shows that climate targets will not be met without urgent food system change including adopting agroecological practices, shifting away from animal-sourced foods, and reducing food loss and waste.

Throughout COP27, delegates from nearly 200 UN member states will be able to attend daily talks and network with NGOs, the commercial industry, academic institutions and researchers at the Food4Climate Pavilion, which will be in the Blue Zone of COP27, taking place this year in Sharm El-Sheikh from 6 to18 November.

“We need urgent action now that creates a just transition away from harmful resource-intensive agriculture and towards fair, healthy, humane and resilient food systems,” said Juliette Tronchon, spokesperson for the coalition behind the Food4Climate Pavilion. 

“Through our programme of dedicated events, the Food4Climate Pavilion will significantly advance awareness among UN member states that we cannot tackle the climate emergency without addressing food systems.

“It will be impossible to limit temperature rise and meet the Paris Agreement goals without addressing the impacts of our food systems. The Pavilion will make that clear to COP27 delegates so that they will feel equipped to return to their countries to formulate policies that encourage plant-rich diets,” Tronchon added.

The global food system is currently responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) but animal-based foods emit twice as much CO2 as plant-based foods.

A just transition away from resource-intensive food systems towards more resilient, diverse systems will be crucial to reverse the climate crisis and adapt to extreme weather, whilst promoting inclusion, and equality, and improving food security and global health.

“Where animal-sourced food is consumed in excess, shifting towards more animal-free diets is one of the most effective measures for mitigation and adaptation strategies,” Tronchon said.

“The Pavilion will highlight the need for these strategies more prominently than previous COPs. As a consequence, I am convinced that the presence of the Pavilion at COP27 will have a lasting, positive effect on tackling the climate crisis through food system change,” Tronchon added.

Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of Pavilion partner, IPES-Food, said that without a rapid transformation towards sustainable food systems, it will be impossible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C and prevent mass crop failures.

“The Food4Climate Pavilion will help put the healthy, diverse and resilient food systems we need on the agenda of COP27,” De Schutter added.

The Pavilion’s programme, revealed today on its new dedicated website, will include the following themed days:

  • Interaction of science and policy-making to guide food system change
  • Voice of young people on food systems and climate change
  • Just transition for farmers and farming communities
  • Food innovation and protein diversification
  • Adaptation and Agriculture Day: an official day set by the Egyptian Presidency
  • Animal agriculture, its’ land use and emissions
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment in food systems
  • Forests, indigenous peoples and local communities
  • Loss and waste in food systems
  • Healthy food for healthy futures: the plate and the planet
  • Food security and how food systems can bolster supplies

Pavilion partner Compassion in World Farming said that there was an urgent need to focus on food system change to avert climate disaster. 

“Without urgent action by world leaders to fix the global food system we won’t tackle the climate emergency,” Debbie Tripley, Global Director of Campaigns and Policy for Compassion in World Farming, said. 

“The Food4Climate Pavilion will focus significant attention on the vital need to transform the way we produce, consume and waste food if we want to avert a climate disaster. We have to phase out industrial animal agriculture, shift to nature and climate-friendly farming systems, and reduce the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods. This is the only way we will provide a global food system that is fair and benefits animals, people and our planet,” Tripley added. 


Appeal for more plant-based meals at COP

Separately, the coalition behind the Food4Climate Pavilion joined 160 other organisations this month to call on the Egyptian Presidency of COP27 to provide sustainable, plant-rich food to delegates.

In the letter, the signatories highlighted to the Presidency how Egypt’s traditional cuisine is ideally suited to deliver healthy and sustainable catering at the UN’s biggest climate event.


About the Food4Climate Pavilion partner organisations

Food4Climate Pavilion will aim to present plant-rich diets as a key mitigation and adaptation solution to the climate crisis at this year’s COP27 conference in Egypt in November. 

The Pavilion’s diverse stakeholders highlight the rich plurality of actors and factors shaping our food systems. With a strong focus on Just Transition, the programme will explore multiple perspectives and concrete ways to create inclusive mechanisms for leveraging the potential of plant-rich diets to make our food systems more sustainable and equitable. 

Core organisers of the Food4Climate Pavilion: A Well-Fed World, Compassion in World Farming, Food Tank, FOUR PAWS, The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food), ProVeg International. 

NGO partners are: 50by40, A Well-Fed World, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Center for Earth Ethics, Compassion in World Farming, Jeremy Coller Foundation, FOUR PAWS, Humane Society International, MENA Youth Network, ProVeg International, World Animal Protection, Youth Loves Egypt and YOUNGO.

Think tank partners are: Brighter Green, Food Tank, The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food) 

Food industry partners are: Enough, Impossible Foods, Oatly, Upfield


About PAN International and PAN South Africa:

PAN International is a fast-growing global non-profit organisation of medical doctors and healthcare professionals with a bold mission: change the way the world eats in order to improve personal health, prevent diseases and reduce the dramatic numbers of diet-related deaths. With their student network, national branches and campaigns, they bring education, change, and motivation for more whole food plant-based eating to healthcare systems and communities around the world. PAN South Africa, founded in 2020, is the local branch of PAN International. 



Notes to Editors

For media inquiries, email Arleen Nel at [email protected]

For more information about PAN South Africa and the research mentioned, contact Dr Nanine Wyma at [email protected]


About ProVeg South Africa:

ProVeg South Africa is the local branch of ProVeg International. ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives.

ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.

ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited for UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award.