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Diet and global climate change

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Diet and global climate change

Posted: 08 Mar 2017 12:44 PM PST

Eating healthier food could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, suggests a new study. As it turns out, some relatively small diet tweaks could add up to significant inroads in addressing climate change….To create healthier model diets, the researchers altered the standard 2,000-calorie-a-day U.S. diet, changing the sources of about half of those calories. The different model diets progressively reduced the amount of red and processed meats, with the most stringent diet eliminating them completely. Fruit and vegetable intake was doubled, and peas and beans increased to replace the meat protein removed. Refined grains were partially replaced with whole grains. Added sugar, which Cleveland noted is a known health risk, was not reduced. Neither was dairy, eggs, fish or non-red meat.

“This means our estimates are probably very conservative, both in terms of health and climate change implications,” Cleveland said. “Just changing half of the diet and including only some of the diseases associated with diets, we found a huge effect. “Food has a tremendous impact on the environment,” he added. “That means that there is enormous potential for our food choices to have positive effects on our environment as well on our health and our health care costs.”…. The food system contributes about 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with the largest proportion coming from animal-based food. In addition, the poor quality of the standard U.S. diet — including high levels of red and processed meat and low levels of fruits and vegetables — is a major factor in a number of preventable diseases. The U.S. spends $3 trillion on health care every year — 18 percent of the gross domestic product — much of it allocated to diseases associated with poor diets…

Elinor Hallström, Quentin Gee, Peter Scarborough, David A. Cleveland. A healthier US diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both the food and health care systems. Climatic Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-017-1912-5

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