A new study has found that millions of lives could be saved each year by 2050 if people adopt vegetarian and vegan diets. According to research published by Oxford University, cutting down on meat consumption would also protect the planet.
Lead author of the study, Dr Marco Springmann, highlighted how a person’s diet has great influence on their health and the global environment.
“Imbalanced diets which are low in fruits and vegetables, or high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden in most regions.”
Dr Springmann continued to explain how at the same time, the food system is responsible for over 25 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions and are therefore a major driver of climate change.
The team predicted how four different dietary scenarios could impact the planet and people’s health. Scenarios included the global population adopting diets such as limiting intake of red meat, sugar and total calories, eating the minimum recommended levels of fruit and vegetables and adopting vegetarian and vegan diets.
Researchers found that by 2050, a vegan lifestyle could save more than eight million lives, while a vegetarian diet could save 7.3 million. They also found that if people were to follow the minimum dietary guidelines, over five million deaths could be avoided.
Reducing the intake of red meat accounted for half of the avoided deaths, while the other half would be a result of reduced obesity rates, a cut of calories and a rise in fruit and vegetable intake.
The study also highlighted the impact food has on the environment.
Currently, food-related greenhouse gas emissions make up 50 per cent of pollution. However, 70 per cent of food-related emissions would be cut if people adopted a vegan diet or 63 per cent with a vegetarian diet.
When benefits were assessed, researchers found that changing how people eat could save billions worldwide each year in healthcare and lost working days.
Researchers believe that the study is the first to estimate the affect vegan and vegetarian diets could have on worldwide health and climate change.