Survey of greenhouse gas data reveals that emissions
from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled in the last 50
years and could keep increasing at an alarming rate if we do not make a
conscious effort to reduce them. Reducing this enormous risk of greenhouse gas
emissions by changing food consumption patterns have been debated for many
The United Kingdom is working
on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the fiscal year 2050 as compared
to the levels in the year 1990. They estimate that this would include a 70%
reduction in emissions from the food industry.
carried out by London School
of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine shows that even making small changes to the
diets would have a major effect on health and environment. The results of the
study have been published in two journals. The first paper published in Climatic Change
studied the effect of
current diet as well as diet modified to meet World Health Organization (WHO)
dietary recommendations on greenhouse gas emissions. The second paper, which
was published in BMJ Open
effect of dietary modifications on the health of the UK population.
collected data from food diaries of 1,571 people in the UK. They also analyzed
data on consumer behavior, which was used to define dietary changes, which
would most likely be acceptable to the people. The modified diet (as per the
WHO dietary recommendations) would actually mean consumption of fewer animal
products particularly red meat, reduce consumption of sweets, savory snacks,
dairy products, eggs and increase the intake of fruits, vegetables and cereals.
revealed that by conforming to the diet recommended by WHO, there is a
possibility of reducing greenhouse gas emission
by a ballpark figure of 17%.
They also suggested that they could achieve further reductions of around 40% by
making realistic modifications to diet which would mean increase consumption of
fruits, vegetables and cereals while cutting down on red meat and processed
snacks. However, to reduce emissions by greater than 40% would call for a shift
to an entirely vegan diet
, which would most likely be unacceptable to
vast majority of UK individuals.
research paper published in BMJ Open
highlights the fact that following
the WHO recommended diet would actually increase the average life expectancy of
UK individuals i.e., by 12 months in men and by 4 months in women. The authors
speculate that such health benefits would come primarily from reductions in
coronary heart disease
One of the lead
study authors and a reader in food and nutrition for
global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Alan
Dangour, commented, "This is the most detailed analysis to date for the UK, and
our findings show that even making relatively small changes to current diets
would have a tremendous impact on both the environment and population health.
It's clear from our analysis that we do not need to make radical changes to our
dietary habits to bring about substantial benefits."
The study limitations are linked to the available data on food
consumption and greenhouse gas emissions related to diet. The study authors caution
that the mortality estimates should be treated as indicative of broader
patterns rather than precise estimates.