Results of a new study have revealed that if everyone went vegan, 8 million fewer people would die per year by 2050, and global warming could be slashed.
By simply eating less meat and increasing the intake of fruit and vegetables, several million deaths would be prevented worldwide per year by 2050, planet-warming emissions would be significantly cut, and billions of dollars would be saved annually in healthcare costs and climate damage, researchers said.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to estimate how a global shift towards a more plant-based diet would impact both health and climate change.
The study’s author, Marco Springmann, of the Oxford Martin Program on the Future of Food says that while we don’t need everyone to become vegan, health and environmental concerns should be on your mind. “What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the global environment,” said Sprinmann.
Diet: Standard Global Guidelines
For the study, Oxford University researchers modeled the effects of four different diets by:
- “status quo”: a plan that adheres to global guidelines including the bare minimum amount of fruits and vegetables, and strict limits on red meat, sugar and caloric intake
- vegetarian diet
- vegan diet.
They found that adopting a diet in line with the global guidelines could prevent or delay over 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050.
Perhaps more shockingly, 8.1 million fewer people would die in a world of vegans who do not consume animal products, including eggs and milk.
As for climate change, researchers predict that following dietary recommendations would cut food-related emissions by 29%, adopting vegetarian diets would cut them by 63%, and vegan diets by 70%.
Dramatic Cuts In Healthcare Spending
Dietary shifts could produce savings of $700 billion to $1 trillion per year on health care, unpaid care, and lost working days. The economic benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as $570 billion, the study found.
The researchers ascertained that three-quarters of all benefits would occur in developing countries, although the per capita impacts of dietary change would be greatest in developed nations due to higher rates of meat consumption and obesity.
Systematic Geographic Intervention
The study observed regional differences which could be used to identify the most suitable interventions for food production and consumption, Springmann said.
Lower red meat consumption, for example, would have the biggest effect in East Asia, the West, and Latin America. Whereas boosting fruit and vegetable intake was found to be the largest factor in cutting deaths in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
As expected, the study confirmed that lower caloric intake, leading to fewer overweight people, would play a key role in improving health in the Eastern Mediterranean, Latin America and Western nations.
To achieve a diet that sticks to common guidelines would require a 25% increase in the number of fruits and vegetables eaten globally and a 56% cut in red meat.
Overall, humans would need to consume 15% fewer calories, it said.
“We do not expect everybody to become vegan,” Springmann added. “But climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large step in the right direction.”
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