Do Plant-Based Diets Improve Longevity?

vegetarian-dietConsuming a plant-based diet not only makes for a more sustainable environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also improves your longevity. Research done at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health for the July issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has identified food systems as a significant contributor to global warming. The study also focused on the dietary patterns of vegetarians, semi-vegetarians and non-vegetarians to quantify and compare greenhouse gas emissions and assess total mortality.

To find similar conclusions, previous studies relating dietary patterns to greenhouse gas emissions and health effects relied on simulated data of relatively small populations. This analysis was the first of its kind of use a large, living population.

The Findings

  • The mortality rate for non-vegetarians was almost 20 percent higher than that for vegetarians and semi-vegetarians.

  • Switching from non-vegetarian diets to vegetarian diets or even semi-vegetarian diets also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Vegetarian diets resulted in almost a third less emissions compared to the non-vegetarian diets.

  • Modifying the consumption of animal-based foods can be a feasible and effective tool for climate change mitigation and public health improvements.

The study sample is heterogeneous and our data is rich, said co-author of both studies Sam Soret, Ph.D., MPH, associate dean at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. 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. The takeaway message is that relatively small reductions in the consumption of animal products result in non-trivial environmental benefits and health benefits.

The study also drew data from the Adventist Health Study a large-scale study of the nutritional habits and practices of more than 96,000 Seventh-Day Adventists throughout the United States and Canada making it more geographically diverse and multi-ethnic.

The accompanying study supports returning into a large-scale practice of plant-based diets. This is in light of the substantial and detrimental environmental impact caused by the current trend of eating diets rich in animal products. Switching to plant-based foods will increase food security and sustainability and avoid the consequences.

These two studies combined demonstrate that the production of food for human consumption causes significant emissions of greenhouse gases. They also compared the environmental impacts of producing foods consumed by vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

To our knowledge no studies have yet used a non-simulated data set to independently asses the climate change mitigation potential and actual health outcomes for the same dietary patterns, said co-author of both studies Joan Sabate, MD, DrPH, nutrition professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. Throughout history, forced either by necessity or choice, large segments of the worlds population have thrived on plant-based diets. She added that these results emphasize the need to reassess peoples nutritional practices in light of environmental challenges and worldwide population growth.

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