Vegans really are going to save the world, study suggests

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By eating less meat and more fruit and vegetables, the world could prevent several million deaths per year by 2050, cut planet-warming emissions substantially, and save billions of dollars annually in healthcare costs and climate damage, researchers said.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first to estimate both the health and climate change impacts of a global move towards a more plant-based diet.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mark the first time that researchers have looked into the impact of a worldwide vegan diet on health and climate change.

According to researchers at Oxford University, worldwide veganism would also save some $700 billion to $1 trillion per year on health care, and cut food-related emissions by as much as 70 per cent.

The researchers studied the effects of four different diets, including vegetarianism, veganism, a global guidelines diet which includes limited red meat and the minimum requirements for fruits and veg, and staying the course as we eat right now.

The global guidelines showed a promising 5.1 million human lives saved, but paled in comparison to the 8.1 million veganism would impact. Add the more than 56 billion animals (forgotten in the study) that face death yearly for flesh, dairy, and eggs, and the impact is almost unimaginable. 

lead author Marco Springmann told NBC:

“What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the global environment.”

Researchers found that it would cut food related emissions by 70 percent (the dietary recommendations option only hit 29), and could save up to “$1 trillion per year on healthcare, unpaid care and lost working days, while the economic benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as $570 billion.” 

To achieve a diet that sticks to common guidelines would require a 25 percent increase in the number of fruits and vegetables eaten globally, and a 56 percent cut in red meat.

Overall, humans would need to consume 15 percent fewer calories, it said.

“We do not expect everybody to become vegan,” Springmann added. “But climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large step in the right direction.”

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