Vegetarian and vegan diets could save millions of lives and trillions of dollars, says a new research. Studies have shown that vegetarian and vegan diets improve health. Likewise, climate change activists often cite that animal products place on the environment to advocate for changed practices.
The study published in the journal PNAS combines the two perspectives to show that the widespread adoption of both vegetarian and vegan diets could save millions of lives.
"There is huge potential from a health perspective, an environmental perspective and an economic perspective, really," says study author Marco Springmann, a researcher at Oxford University.
The researchers said that the environmental impacts of a dietary shift could be dramatic. Livestock alone accounts for more than 14% of global greenhouse gas emission. By 2050, the food sector could account for half of the emissions. A vegan or vegetarian diet could cut those emissions by 70% and 63% respectively.
Changing dietary patterns could save $1 trillion a year by preventing healthcare costs and lost productivity. While considering the economic value of lost life, the figure increased to as much as $30 trillion a year.
"Placing a dollar value on the benefits of the vegetarian diet could play a significant role in public policy on these issues," said Springmann. "Policymakers often conduct cost-benefit analyses before implementing new rules and the new research could provide them with a starting point for accounting for the economic benefits of policies to wean the world off meat."
East Asia, Latin America and Western high-income countries benefit from reduced red meat consumption. Other regions such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa will benefit the most from increased fruit and vegetable intake. The researchers said that these details could help policymakers create targeted policies.