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What diet can reduce mortality and affect climate and ecology?

I found an interesting article on the Reuters website about how various types of diets throughout the whole of humanity can change life on Earth in a few decades.

According to scientists, reducing the amount of meat in the diet of mankind and increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables by 2050 would have avoided several million annual deaths, significantly reduced atmospheric emissions leading to global warming, and saved billions of dollars spent on medical expenses and fighting with environmental and climate issues.

A new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, first assessed the impact that a global shift to plant-based diets could have on human health and climate change.

According to Marko Springmann, lead author of the study at the Oxford Martin Program on the Future of Food, unbalanced diets pose the greatest risk to human health worldwide, and our food system produces more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions .

Researchers at Oxford University have modeled how four types of diets can have an effect on human health and the environment by mid-century.

The first scenario is a basic one, based on forecasts of the Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO), in which the structure of food consumption will not change.

The second is a scenario based on global principles of healthy eating (developed, in particular, by WHO), implying that people consume only enough calories to maintain optimal weight, and limit sugar and meat consumption.

The third scenario is vegetarian and the fourth is vegan, and they also imply optimal calorie intake.

Results for health, ecology and economics

A global diet in accordance with the principles of a healthy diet would help to avoid 5.1 million annual deaths by 2050, and a vegan diet would avoid 8.1 million deaths! (And I readily believe in it: it is no coincidence that the diet of long-livers from all over the planet consists mainly of plant foods).

With regard to climate change, global dietary guidelines would help reduce emissions from food production and consumption by 29%; a vegetarian diet would cut them by 63%, and a vegan diet by 70%.

Food changes would save about 700–1000 billion dollars a year on health and disability losses, while the economic benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions could be 570 billion dollars, the study said. The economic benefits of improving public health can be equal to or even greater than the damage prevented by climate change.

“The value of these benefits provides a strong case for increasing public and private funding for programs aimed at promoting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets,” says Springmann.

Regional differences

Researchers have found that three-quarters of all savings from dietary changes will come from developing countries, although per capita effects will be most significant in developed countries due to higher meat consumption and obesity.

Scientists have analyzed regional differences that should be considered when determining the most appropriate measures for the production and consumption of food. For example, a reduction in red meat will have the greatest effect in Western developed countries, East Asia and Latin America, while increased consumption of fruits and vegetables will have the greatest impact on reducing mortality in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Of course, you should not think that introducing these changes will be easy. To switch to a diet corresponding to the second scenario, you will need to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables around the world by 25% and reduce the consumption of red meat by 56% (by the way, read about 6 reasons to eat as little meat as possible). But in general, people will have to consume 15% less calories.

“We do not expect everyone to become vegans,” says Springmann. “But the problems of the impact of the food system on climate change will be difficult to solve and will probably require more than just technological change.” Moving to a healthier and more environmentally sustainable diet can be a big step in the right direction. ”

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