A new study from the National Academy of Sciences has once again highlighted the benefits of going reducetarian. The evidence suggests that a reduction in meat-based foods would help lower the current human mortality rate as well as slow the pace of climate change.
According to the study, more than half of avoided deaths (51–57% across the whole sample size) were due to decreased red meat consumption, 24–35% to increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Shifting towards more plant-based diets, in line with standard dietary guidelines, could reduce global mortality by 6-10%. There is a direct correlation between a meat based diet and reduction in lifespan.
Food system produces more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Following dietary recommendations would cut food-related emissions by 29 percent, adopting vegetarian diets would cut them by 63 percent, and vegan diets by 70 percent.
The study estimates the economic benefits of improving diets to be 1–31 trillion US dollars. This is comprised of US$700 billion to US$1 trillion savings per year on health care, unpaid care, and lost working days. Additionally, the economic benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as US$570 billion.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study adds to the growing scientific consensus on the value of diets with less meat. The authors are careful to note that they don’t expect everyone in the world to stop eating meat or other animal products. Rather, they simply intended to explore the range of possible benefits. Any step towards a more plant-based diet is a step in the right direction.
Written by Cameron Meyer Shorb, Paris Martineau, and Wangda Zhao