ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY FRUIT: The Loma Linda study found that a vegetarian diet results in nearly a third less greenhouse gas emissions than a diet with animal products. Photo credit: Wikicommons

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Vegetarian Diet Is Effective Tool Against Climate Change, Study Finds

Loma Linda University Health says even a small reduction in meat consumption can result in significant environmental benefits.

A plant-based diet is not only good for you but also an effective way to combat climate change, according to a new study by Loma Linda University Health.

The research, published in the upcoming July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that a vegetarian diet results in nearly a third less greenhouse gas emissions than a diet with animal products.

Therefore, a vegetarian or even semi-vegetarian diet is a feasible and effective tool against the climate change that has been caused by emissions, the study said.

"The takeaway message is that relatively small reductions in the consumption of animal products result in non-trivial environmental benefits and health benefits," said Sam Soret, a co-author of the study and an associate dean at Loma Linda University School of Public Health.

The study also found that the mortality rate for non-vegetarians is about 20 percent higher than that for vegetarians and semi-vegetarians.

For the study, Loma Linda researchers used findings that that have identified food systems as a significant contributor to global warming as well as data from the university’s Adventist Health Study, a ground-breaking work that explores the nutritional practices of more than 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists in North America.

The result is the first analysis that uses a large, living population, Loma Linda University Health said Wednesday. Previous studies relating diet to greenhouse gas emissions and health effects relied on simulated data or relatively small populations to find similar conclusions, it said.

"To our knowledge, no studies have yet used a single non-simulated data set to independently assess the climate change mitigation potential and actual health outcomes for the same dietary patterns," said Joan Sabaté, a study co-author and a nutrition professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health.

The study argues that a global shift toward plant-based diets would help protect people against food shortages by increasing 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,” Sabaté said in a statement.

California-based and Adventist-operated Loma Linda University Health is an internationally recognized leader in producing scientific research recognizing the benefits of plant-based diets. Its School of Public Health places an emphasis on environmental nutrition through a six-year-old postdoctoral program as well as a research program funded by the McLean Endowment.

Related links

Loma Linda University Health statement

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition abstract

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