A recent study suggests that consuming less meat and more fruit and veg could avoid several million deaths every year worldwide by 2050.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, concludes that moving towards a more plant-based diet could reduce global mortality by 16%. It also suggests that food-related greenhouse gases would be reduced by 29-70% by 2050 if this type of diet was adopted across the board, which would be a hugely positive step in the battle against climate change.
In monetary terms, it claims that eating less meat would also boost the world’s economy and bring $700-1,000 billion in savings for healthcare, unpaid care and lost working days. With the total economic benefit of reduced greenhouse gases to be somewhere in the region of $570 billion.
Reducing the amount of meat in our diets has been shown to have a positive environmental benefit as it would ease pressure on land use and avoid major agricultural expansion due to an increasing population.
The study looked at different diets – the first, a low-meat eating diet, included a minimum of five portions of fruit and veg a day, fewer than 50g of sugar, a maximum of 43g of red meat and a calorie intake of between 2,200-2,300. A vegetarian diet consisted of six or seven portions of fruit and veg, on portion of pulses, no red meat, poultry or fish, and a vegan diet where no dairy or eggs were included.
Adopting a low-meat diet suggested a potential increase in global fruit and veg consumption of 25% and a decrease in red meat consumption by 56% (78% in wealthy Western countries). The non-meat diets showed even greater increases in the consumption of fruits, veg and pulses.
With the low meat-eating model, the study claimed 5.1 million deaths could be avoided per year. The vegetarian diet would save 7.3 million lives, and with the vegan diet, that rose to 8.1 million, due to the prevention of diseases including coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Food for thought?
Eating less meat would certainly be the best way to help the world's poverty and population issues. They say that we won't be able to feed everyone in years to come. So we certainly need to use as much as possible for growing plant-based food - not for grazing cattle.
It's so difficult to know what to eat. I have read other articles suggesting that lean, organic meat is very good for you and a very natural thing to eat. This would also be tricky if you are on a paleo diet!!
the same for me - I do enjoy my animal protein but I am conscious that it is a limited resource. The important thing for me is taste not waste - so if I'm eating meat, I'd rather have a better cut less often.
Food for thought, indeed. I am a carnivore through and through, but this sort of research does make me think about how much meat I eat. I have cut back from when I was a teen, and i try to eat lean meat.