Following vegetarian diets with less meat and more vegetables and fruits could avoid million deaths by 2050, decrease planet-warming emissions, and help saving large amount of money in healthcare costs and solving climate damage.
According to lead author Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, unbalanced diets partly contribute to the greatest health burden worldwide, and more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions were produced by our food system.
Researchers from The Oxford University measured the impacts of 4 different diets by mid-century: a ‘business’ scenario; a global guideline including minimum amounts of veggies and fruits, and limits on sugar, total calories and red meat; a vegan diet, and a vegetarian diet.
The result shows that applying diets with the global guidelines could reduce 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050, while 8.1 million deaths could be avoided in a world of vegans who do not consume animal products, such as eggs, meat and milk. Following dietary recommendations could also reduce food-related emissions by 29 %, while adopting vegetarian diets could lower them by 63 % and vegan diets could cut them by 70 % when it comes to climate change. Also, dietary shifts could save $700 billion to $1,000 billion per year on healthcare, unpaid care and lost working days; the economic benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions could go up to $570 billion, according to the study.
The study also found that three-quarters of total benefits would be brought to developing nations. However, the impacts of dietary change per capita would be greatest in developed countries, because of their higher rates of meat consumption and obesity. Plus, the economic value of health improvements could also benefit from dietary change; these improvements even possibly larger than the value of the avoided damage caused by climate change.
According to Springmann, those benefits appeal for increased private and public spending on programs which aim to achieve healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets. He added that he study looking at regional differences could be useful to identify the most appropriate interventions for food production and consumption.
For instance, the benefits of lower red meat consumption would be greatest in the West, Latin America and East Asia, meanwhile increasing vegetable and fruit intake has biggest effects in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Similarly, reduced calorie intake which helps decrease the number of people being overweight, would have dramatic effects in health improvements in Latin America, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Western nations.
However, this process will not be easy at all. As achieving a diet that follows common guidelines requires a 25 % increase in fruit and vegetable intake and a 56 % cut in red meat consumption. Generally, people would need to consume 15 % fewer calories, the study said.