According to a newly released study, one could significantly reduce the environmental costs of agriculture and live longer as well if healthier food choices were made. These recent findings that were published in the journal Nature reveal the potential positive effects of a healthy diet on our planet.
The research found that between 1961 and 2009, individuals consumed a larger amount of meat protein and empty calories. This trend along with income growth helped to estimate that by 2050, people would be eating fewer portions of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, their consumption of empty calories increased by about 60 percent, as well as the consumption of pork, poultry, beef, dairy and eggs at 25 to 50 percent.
“This is bad for our health, increasing the incidence of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and other chronic non-communicable diseases that lower global life expectancy,” a team of researchers from Minnesota University in the United States said in their report.
But along with a sicker population, the environment has a lot to suffer as well. According to the researchers, if dietary trends continue as they are, by 2050 they will be a major contributor to an estimated 80 percent increase in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from food production. Furthermore, it could necessitate the clearing of around a billion additional hectares of the Earth’s remaining land for agriculture.
“Solutions do exist,” David Tilman, author of the report, said. “Alternative diets could, if widely adopted, reduce or even reverse environmental impacts and help to prevent a global epidemic of selected chronic diseases.”
“However, it will be difficult to make people change their eating habits as diet is heavily influenced by culture, nutritional knowledge, price, availability, taste and convenience,” the authors added.
The study, published Thursday in the online edition of Nature by Tilman and graduate student Michael Clark, synthesized data on environmental costs of food production, diet trends and relationships between diet, health and population growth.
The study then compared health impacts of the global omnivorous diet with those reported for traditional Mediterranean, pescatarian and vegetarian diets. Adopting these alternative diets could reduce incidence of type II diabetes by about 25 percent, cancer by about 10 percent and death from heart disease by about 20 percent relative to the omnivore diet.