Data on more than 73,000 participants in the Adventist Health Study strongly suggests that consuming a plant-based diet results in a more sustainable environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions while improving longevity.
The study and article, produced by researchers at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, in Loma Linda, California, and published in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.071589), was based on findings that identified food systems as a significant contributor to global warming. Researchers focused on the dietary patterns of vegetarians, semivegetarians and nonvegetarians to quantify and compare greenhouse gas emissions, while also assessing total mortality.
The mortality rate for nonvegetarians was almost 20% higher than that for vegetarians and semivegetarians. On top of lowering mortality rates, switching from a nonvegetarian diet to a vegetarian or even semivegetarian diet helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions: The vegetarian diets reduced emissions by almost one-third compared with the nonvegetarian diets. Modifying the consumption of animal-based foods can therefore be a feasible and effective tool for mitigating climate change and improving public health, the study concluded.
"The takeaway message is that relatively small reductions in the consumption of animal products result in non-trivial environmental benefits and health benefits," said Sam Soret, PhD, MPH, associate dean at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and coauthor of the studies.