A new study from the University of California Santa Barbara revealed that good dietary choices could help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
The study, published in the journal Climate Change, showed that eating healthier foods will not only boosts one's health, but also improve the health care system and help in the conservation of the planet.
"Food has a tremendous impact on the environment," said David Cleveland, a research professor at UCSB's environmental studies program and geography department and director of the study, in a press release. "That means that there is enormous potential for our food choices to have positive effects on our environment as well on our health and our health care costs."
For the study, the researchers first analyzed data from published meta-analyses examining the effects of foods on diseases. They then used life-cycle assessment data for the foods that changed in the healthier model diets to analyze the effects of the diets on both the food system and health care system.
For the food system, the researchers measured the effect of the diets on greenhouse emissions. On the other hand, fot the health care system, they estimated the change in risk of diabetes, colorectal cancer and coronary heart disease due to the healthier diets. The subsequent effect of the change in risk on both healthcare cost and greenhouse gas emissions was also analyzed.
The healthier diet models developed by the researchers were based on the standard 2,000-calorie-a-day U.S. diet. The researchers altered the diet by changing the sources of about half of the calories.
The healthier models progressively cut down the amount of red and processed meat, while doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables being consumed. To replace the protein from meats, the researchers increased the consumption of peas and beans. Non-red meat, fish, eggs, dairy and added sugar were not reduced, despite them being known health risks.
The researchers observed that their healthier models resulted to 20 to 40 percent reduced risk of diabetes, colorectal cancer and coronary heart disease. The direct greenhouse gas emission also dropped by 222 kilograms to 826 kilograms per person per year, while the healthcare went down by $77 billion to $93 billion annually.
With their findings, the researchers noted that healthier diets could contribute up to 23 percent of the U.S. Climate Action Plan goal of reducing the net greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
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