Healthy diet means a healthy planet, study shows

Healthy diet means a healthy planet, study shows

theguardian.com & Zanolife 2019-11-04

Healthier food choices almost always benefit environment as well, according to Oxford University analysis Eating healthy food is almost always also best for the environment, according to the most sophisticated analysis to date. The researchers said poor diets threaten society by seriously harming people and the planet, but the latest research can inform better choices. The analysis assessed the health and environmental impacts of 15 foods common in western diets and found fruit, vegetables, beans and wholegrains were best for both avoiding disease and protecting the climate and water resources. Conversely, eating more red and processed meat causes the most ill health and pollution. There were a small number of foods that bucked the trend. Fish is generally a healthy choice but has a bigger environmental footprint on average than plant-based diets. High-sugar foods, such as biscuits and fizzy drinks, have a low impact on the planet but are bad for health. The effect of bad diets on health in rich nations is well known, as is the need to slash western meat consumption in order to tackle the climate breakdown and other environmental crises. But this is the first study to consider both together in detail. Michael Clark at the University of Oxford, who led the research, said: “Continuing to eat the way we do threatens societies, through chronic ill health and degradation of Earth’s climate, ecosystems and water resources. “Choosing better, more sustainable diets is one of the main ways people can improve their health and help protect the environment.” The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, assessed plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, potatoes, refined grains and wholegrain cereals, and sugar-sweetened beverages, and animal-based foods such as raw and processed red meat, chicken, dairy products, eggs and fish. Using data from other studies on the diets and health outcomes of tens of millions of people, mostly in developed western nations, they calculated the health impact of eating one extra portion of each food on heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. The researchers said foods with medium environmental impacts or not significantly associated with ill health, such as refined grain cereals, dairy, eggs and chicken, could help improve health and reduce environmental harm if they replaced foods such as red meat. Prof Tim Benton at the Chatham House thinktank, who was not part of the team, said: “The global ill-health costs from diabetes alone are the same order of magnitude as the total value of farming to the global economy.” “Our existing agricultural economy is destroying our ability to deal with climate change and also destroying our public health.” The above is an edited version of an article which appeared on 28 October 2019 on theguardian.com For the full original English-language story, click here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/28/healthy-diet-means-a-healthy-planet-study-shows For more information, contact: [email protected]