A new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that adhering to a diet that is both health-conscious and planet-friendly can reduce the risk of premature death by nearly one-third. The findings address that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while minimizing animal products and highly processed foods, benefits both individual health and the environment.

Planetary Health Diet Reduces Early Death Risk by a Third and Combat Climate Change

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The study shows that individuals who closely follow a planetary health diet have a 30% lower risk of early death compared to those with the least adherence to this diet.

This dietary approach also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and land use, both critical factors in addressing climate change.

Dr. David Katz, a preventive and lifestyle medicine expert supports the study’s findings addressing that diets rich in plant-based foods and low in animal products and processed foods are beneficial for both human health and the planet.

Katz, who was not involved in the study reiterates the message that what is good for human health aligns with planetary health goals.

Raising livestock for human consumption contributes to environmental degradation including deforestation, biodiversity loss and water pollution.

Livestock particularly ruminants like cattle, sheep and goats, are major methane emitters. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas is about 80 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat over a 20-year period.

Cattle alone can produce up to 500 liters of methane daily through belching and flatulence. Collectively, livestock account for approximately 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The study highlights that shifting to a planet-healthy diet can cut land use by 51%, greenhouse gas emissions by 29% and fertilizer use by 21%.

Researchers analyzed dietary data from over 200,000 individuals across several decades focusing on their adherence to the Eat-Lancet dietary guidelines.

The guidelines advocate for increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and plant-based proteins, while reducing the intake of meat and dairy.

Participants’ diets were assessed every four years over 34 years, allowing for a precise analysis of the relationship between diet and health outcomes.

The study found that individuals who adhered to the planetary health diet had a 30% lower risk of dying prematurely from any cause.

Adhering to the diet was associated with a 28% lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases, a 14% lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, a 10% lower risk of cancer and a 47% lower risk of respiratory diseases in nonsmokers.

The planetary health diet proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission in 2019 is designed to improve human health while minimizing environmental impact.

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It emphasizes a high intake of minimally processed plant foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts with limited consumption of meat and dairy.

The planetary health diet encourages individuals to choose plant-based options over animal products and refined grains aligning closely with the Mediterranean diet.

The Planetary Health Diet can be tailored to different dietary preferences including fully plant-based, vegan or omnivorous with limited meat and dairy intake.

As the global population continues to grow, changing dietary habits toward more sustainable practices is essential for both personal health and the health of the planet.

By adopting the planetary health diet, individuals can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also potentially extend their lifespan and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

The Planetary Health Diet prioritizes plant-based proteins such as nuts, legumes and whole grains over animal-based sources.

The Planetary Health Diet advocates for an increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in essential nutrients and have a lower ecological footprint compared to animal products.

The Planetary Health Diet promotes the use of healthy, unsaturated fats found in foods like olive oil and sunflower oil, which contribute to heart health and are more sustainable than animal fats.

Reducing red meat intake and limiting added sugars are crucial components of the diet. These changes help lower the risk of various diseases and decrease greenhouse gas emissions from food production.

The Planetary Health Diet addresses minimally processed foods, which are generally healthier and less taxing on the environment compared to highly processed alternatives.

The study which analyzed decades of dietary data from over 200,000 participants, found that a closer adherence to the Planetary Health Diet was associated with a lower risk of major diseases such as heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Participants who followed the Planetary Health Diet most closely experienced a 30% lower risk of death from all causes compared to those with the lowest adherence. This reduction was consistent across various causes of mortality.

Foods such as whole grains, nuts and healthy fats were particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of death. Higher consumption of red meat was associated with an increased risk of mortality.

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The study accounted for various lifestyle factors such as exercise and smoking habits ensuring that the observed health benefits were indeed due to dietary choices.

The use of long-term dietary data provided evidence of the PHD’s health benefits as opposed to the weaker results often seen in studies based on one-time dietary assessments.

Adhering to the Planetary Health Diet was associated with a 29% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to diets high in animal-based foods.

The Planetary Health Diet requires 21% less fertilizer which helps reduce the environmental pollution associated with intensive agriculture.

The study found that adherence to the Planetary Health Diet led to a 51% reduction in cropland use. This reduction is important for facilitating reforestation and preserving biodiversity.

The Planetary Health Diet supports a shift towards food systems that are more sustainable and less reliant on industrial meat production, which is a major contributor to environmental degradation.

By promoting a diet that requires fewer resources and emits fewer pollutants, the Planetary Health Diet helps build a more resilient food system capable of withstanding the impacts of climate change.

Canada’s revamped food guide, introduced in 2019 aligns closely with the Planetary Health Diet by encouraging plant-based proteins and limiting processed foods and sugary drinks.

A sustainable diet like the Planetary Health Diet must be affordable and culturally relevant to ensure adoption. This requires policymakers to consider local dietary practices and economic conditions when promoting dietary changes.

Increasing public awareness about the health and environmental benefits of the Planetary Health Diet is important. Educational campaigns can help people understand the importance of their food choices and encourage more sustainable eating habits.

Promoting organic farming and sustainable meat production practices can help reduce the environmental impact of food production while supporting local economies and ensuring food security.

The current industrial food system is heavily dependent on factory farming, which is unsustainable and harmful to the environment.

Transitioning to a more sustainable system requires changes in agricultural practices and consumer behavior.

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