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Vegetarian Diet Extends Lifespan, Cuts Greenhouse Emissions: Study

Jun 27, 2014 06:57 AM EDT

A new study suggests that vegetarian diets not only improve longevity, but also help reduce greenhouse emissions.

The study was conducted by Loma Linda University Health researchers. The team compared dietary patterns of vegetarians, semi-vegetarians and non-vegetarians to find which diet helped cut early death risk as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Data for the study came from 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists throughout the United States and Canada enrolled in the Adventist Health Study.

"The study sample is heterogeneous and our data is rich. We analyzed more than 73,000 participants. The level of detail we have on food consumption and health outcomes at the individual level makes these findings unprecedented," said Sam Soret, Ph.D., MPH, associate dean at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and co-author of the study.

Researchers found that the mortality rate of non-vegetarians was 20 percent higher than the mortality rate of vegetarians and semi-vegetarians. The team also found that vegetarian diets were linked to lower greenhouse gas emissions than non-vegetarian diets. According to researchers, modifying diet to reduce meat intake could help decrease emissions.

"The takeaway message is that relatively small reductions in the consumption of animal products result in non-trivial environmental benefits and health benefits," said Soret, according to a news release.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, meat production, both traditional and industrial releases greenhouse gases. The agency recommends a more balanced, sustainable diet.

An article accompanying the present study states that the research provides evidence that humans should consider switching to large scale production of plant-based diets. Reducing meat in diet will increase food security and sustainability.

"Throughout history, forced either by necessity or choice, large segments of the world's population have thrived on plant-based diets," said Joan Sabate, M.D., DrPH, nutrition professor at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health and co-author of the study, according to a news release.

The study and article are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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