Researchers seek to quantify global benefits of reduced meat diet

March 22, 2016 by Bob Yirka report
meat
Credit: Alex Borland/public domain

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers at Oxford University has published a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences detailing their attempts to merge region-specific health models that are based on diet and weight related risk factors with global emission economic modules, to produce impact estimates on health, economics and climate change, if the consumption of meat were to be drastically reduced in the near future. They claim their findings suggest that the world could save millions of lives and trillions of dollars over the next half century, if a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle were adopted worldwide.

Climate and other scientists have known for quite some time that the business of producing meat and consuming it is a major factor contributing to climate change—not only are trees cut to make way for ranch land, but enormous amounts of food are grown to feed the animals on them. Furthermore, animals produce large quantities of methane. Scientists also know that people do not need to eat meat to stay alive, vegetarians and vegans are proof of that. But, what is still unclear is just how much benefit the world would receive if the people of the world switched over to such a diet. That is what the researchers sought to answer.

To gain a better understanding of what is at stake, the researchers used the models to investigate four scenarios unfolding by 2050: business as usual, a worldwide limited meat diet, a worldwide vegetarian diet and a worldwide vegan diet. Their models show, they report, that the second option, simply reducing meat to global guidelines could prevent 5.1 million deaths by the half century mark—or better yet, 8.1 million fewer people would die if the world converted to a vegan . They also found that the limited meat option would lower the amount of food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent, while the vegetarian option would reduce it by 63 percent and the vegan option would reduce it by 70 percent. The researchers also note that recent estimates suggest that a quarter of all come from food production.

The team also outlined regional changes, such as suggesting that approximately 75 percent of the benefits of reduction would occur in developing parts of the world. They also acknowledge that making such a switch would require serious effort by people across the globe.

Explore further: Eggs and chicken instead of beef reap major climate gains

More information: Marco Springmann et al. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1523119113

Abstract
What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the environment we all share. Recent analyses have highlighted the likely dual health and environmental benefits of reducing the fraction of animal-sourced foods in our diets. Here, we couple for the first time, to our knowledge, a region-specific global health model based on dietary and weight-related risk factors with emissions accounting and economic valuation modules to quantify the linked health and environmental consequences of dietary changes. We find that the impacts of dietary changes toward less meat and more plant-based diets vary greatly among regions. The largest absolute environmental and health benefits result from diet shifts in developing countries whereas Western high-income and middle-income countries gain most in per capita terms. Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6–10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29–70% compared with a reference scenario in 2050. We find that the monetized value of the improvements in health would be comparable with, or exceed, the value of the environmental benefits although the exact valuation method used considerably affects the estimated amounts. Overall, we estimate the economic benefits of improving diets to be 1–31 trillion US dollars, which is equivalent to 0.4–13% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050. However, significant changes in the global food system would be necessary for regional diets to match the dietary patterns studied here.

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32 comments

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Eikka
4.5 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2016
Vegan diets are infeasible on the local scale in most of the world, because they rely on the availability of a vast variety of foods to stave of deficiencies. Vitamin D, B12, calcium, iodine etc. are poorly available in exclusively plant based diets.

So the flipside is that you have to keep flying fresh vegetables and nuts from all over the world to all over the world to compensate for the lack of meat in peoples' diets. Otherwise someone in say northern Sweden would be reduced to eating plain turnips and cereals for most of the year and would as a consequence get sick.

You'd also have to give up on milk and cheese entirely, so there goes an important source of calcium. Milk production has a side-effect of producing beef, unless you genetically engineer cows to reproduce by parthenogenesis.

Jaeherys
5 / 5 (4) Mar 22, 2016
I don't think this is the case. Properly fermented bread (e.g. sour dough), as it has been made for thousands of years, contains a significant portion of the nutrients we need. Eating whole grain bread is insufficient as they use commercial yeast to just rise the dough without any real health benefits. Foods like chia seeds have a complete protein content and have been used as a primary protein source in the past.

Just focusing on micronutrients, plants are great sources of most if not all. The key is that all your food, not just the meat or dairy for example, contain these nutrients. It is an unfortunate side effect of the American agriculture industry pushing meat and dairy that has led to this way of thinking. The fact is that neither meat nor dairy is required for a healthy living, it is quite the opposite. People are significantly more healthy and much more resistant to disease, e.g. cancer and diabetes, when eating a whole plant foods diet.
krundoloss
5 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2016
Lets not forget that eating bugs provides a good protein source, requires much less resources to produce, and can be grown in warehouses in more parts of the world.

http://www.precis...ing-bugs

In this discussion, the only thing that should make you say "ewww" is dying of starvation, LOL.
d0nkey
4.3 / 5 (11) Mar 22, 2016
I'd rather die a thousand deaths by fire than to live one week on a vegan diet.

You'll have to pry this steak from my cold dead hands...
antigoracle
1.7 / 5 (11) Mar 22, 2016
I'd rather die a thousand deaths by fire than to live one week on a vegan diet.

You'll have to pry this steak from my cold dead hands...

LOL. You must be in denial, since that will be their pleasure. Wake up and smell the steak for the last time, AGWism is all about population control and if anyone here believe that it's not them, then ignorance is truly bliss.
gkam
4 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2016
"AGWism is all about population control "
---------------------------------

Well, no, . . but we would all appreciate it if you would not reproduce.
dan42day
3.5 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2016
They claim their findings suggest that the world could save millions of lives and trillions of dollars over the next half century, if a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle were adopted worldwide.


Think of how many lives, and how much money could be saved if we were all immobilized in sterile pods with probes stuck in our spines to interface us with an artificial reality.

I'm with you Don, the only reason I'd pry that steak out of your cold dead hands would be to eat it myself!

dogbert
1 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2016
To understand this article and others like it, you must understand the social engineering involved. Socialists in general and AGWites in particular want more than anything to equalize the world's populations so that everyone is equally poor (except, of course, those socialists who are part of the ruling class).

Beef, pork, lamb, milk, cheese, etc. are a large part of the diets of relatively wealthy countries. The redistribution demanded by the AGWites is large but it cannot really equalize the world's populations. If they can eliminate animal protein as a food source, they will have made lasting changes toward poverty for all the world's citizens.

The guesstimates that people will live longer and healthier on high carbohydrate diets ignores the acquisition and progression of diabetes which can be stopped with a low carbohydrate diet. Such a diet can also prevent seizures in some people.
Shootist
1 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2016
So the poor and middle class will be forever denied the best and densest sources of protein while the rich are completely unaffected.

THIS is another reason why leftists and progressives should suck vacuum until they expire.

Jaeherys
4.7 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2016
As always, pure science is manipulated and twisted to some SICK game of politics. I usually don't get upset even when JVK goes on a rant about some mindless biological nonsense but removing meat and dairy from your diet has nothing to do with AMERICAN politics... somehow everything seems to revolve around America.

The healthiest populations are those that eat whole plant diets with generally little meat. For those who want to actually educate themselves like a smart human being, read the research by T. Colin Campbell. His study of rural Chinese diet concludes that meat and dairy intake is highly correlated with cancer rates and overall reduction of health. Studies in mice establish the causal relationship between dairy proteins and cancer.

The fact is, meat and dairy is not required now nor in our past evolution. Thanks to the United States and the evil agriculture industry therein, meat and dairy have somehow become a necessity. Lobbyists = evil; stop listening to them.
leetennant
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2016
I always thought the most profound sections of Marx' writings were the ones about vegetarianism...

Oh wait, socialism cares about the ownership of the means of production. It couldn't give a flying fuck what you eat and you are all crazy people.
someone11235813
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2016
Vegan diets are infeasible on the local scale in most of the world, because they rely on the availability of a vast variety of foods...


That is patently incorrect, in fact it's absurd. Potatoes contain complete protein. How can a few extra vitamins or minerals be 'infeasible'[sic] and yet some massive meat slaughtering facility is not?

vlaaing peerd
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2016
Vitamin D, B12, calcium, iodine
source of calcium.

sunlight, redbull, beans and cabbage!

As for iodine, our vegetables used to contain a lot of it, but actually the agri-monocultures, deforestations, which are mostly caused by the agriculture for livestock farming caused the ground to become depleted of minerals like iodine.

Personally I'm not a fan of a strictly vegan diet, and I'm much in favour of diary, eggs and ocassionaly some meat, but we're really overdoing it with the meat consumption. The weekly recommended dose is what many people eat in just one meal. So we could easily decimate our average consumption.
Eikka
not rated yet Mar 23, 2016
Potatoes contain complete protein. How can a few extra vitamins or minerals be 'infeasible'[sic] and yet some massive meat slaughtering facility is not?


You wanna live on a diet of potatoes and pills?

The pharmaceuticals industry sure would love that.
compose
Mar 23, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
leetennant
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2016
Vitamin D, B12, calcium, iodine
source of calcium.

sunlight, redbull, beans and cabbage!

As for iodine, our vegetables used to contain a lot of it, but actually the agri-monocultures, deforestations, which are mostly caused by the agriculture for livestock farming caused the ground to become depleted of minerals like iodine.

Personally I'm not a fan of a strictly vegan diet, and I'm much in favour of diary, eggs and ocassionaly some meat, but we're really overdoing it with the meat consumption. The weekly recommended dose is what many people eat in just one meal. So we could easily decimate our average consumption.


Exactly, I didn't become a vegetarian. I just cut down my consumption of meats to a few times a week. I did cut out beef and lamb completely because they're not just bad for the environment, they're also bad for me. But that was a personal choice. Just reduce it.
big_hairy_jimbo
2.3 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2016
Just to get rid of the myth that Vitamin D is from Sunlight, IT ISN'T. Sunlight is just photons. Sunlight CATALYSES the reaction. You need to have the base chemicals already in you, which you get from your DIET!
If they want to reduce meat consumption, no doubt by taxing the crap out of it, then I'm starting my own farm!!! I'm not giving up on meat for anyone.
Hey we could also claim we don't need cars, planes, ships made from metal. Surely we could go back to horse and cart, and canoe's. Or how about we all go back to living in caves?Just make stuff from stone!
I can't stand this push to keep telling us what we can consume. Ever noticed that the STICK that get's used EVERYTIME is to make the thing they want us to stop using is COST. They whack the cost up, one way or another. Usually a TAX!! They've well and truly got the population sucked in. Once upon a time any suggestion of a TAX would cause revolt, but now they disguise it as GOOD FOR THE PLANET and population. Yes Mum
leetennant
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 23, 2016
Hey everybody, let's deforest the Amazon. I mean, it's either that or the vague possibility that big_hairy_jimbo might have to pay more tax or only eat steak twice a week instead of every night (which is extremely bad for you btw, red meat is a carcinogen).

But between the two, it's definitely the Amazon. Get your chainsaws ready.

I'd put some comment in here about the utter stupidity of American liberalism and its bizarre sense of exceptionalism from reality. But I've already made that point already.
big_hairy_jimbo
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2016
Well I look forward to us CARNO's hunting you pathetic Vego's down, so I can eat my meat. You don't think that a creature which has evolved to eat plants and meat, will give up meat? Take a look at the herbivores of this world. They need to graze pretty much constantly in order to stay alive. Do you think our enemies will give up meat?? Nope. They will keep eating meat, and god help us, if we are all vego's!!!
@leetennant Can you please point out the exact line in my text where I suggested we cut down the Amazon??? Or did you just make that shit up, for cheap stars?

As for red meat causing cancer, Hmmmm, I don't think there is conclusive SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of that. Only minor suggestive evidence. Providing you eat vegetables with your meat, the anti-cancer properties of the plants, counters any harm the meat may cause. It's about balance my friend.

So what bandwagon are we all jumping on next?

Why don't we do a human cull? They all exhale a climate change gas when breathing!
leetennant
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2016
Bands of cannibals hunting vegetarians.
Human culls

I think we'll just take a moment and stare at that comment in wonder.

And when we're done, we might ask Jimbo where he thinks this meat-heavy diet of his comes from. The supermarket probably. I personally hope he starts his own farm to meet his own meat requirements. That should drop his consumption nicely. Because he hasn't clicked yet that the amount of meat he eats is directly related to the cooperative international community he lives in. And if we really did live in the weird libertarian paradise he thinks we do, he'd only have enough meat to eat it on average once every few weeks. So kudos, dude. Go for it.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Mar 24, 2016
Potatoes contain complete protein
@someone
not really. they may contain up to 2grams Nutritional value per 100 g, but that isn't enough to supply your diet. complex proteins are required for humans: https://en.wikipe...utrition

wheat, rice, corn and soy are far greater protein sources, but still lacking for a healthy diet

.

I just cut down my consumption of meats to a few times a week
@Leetennant
laudable, but different people react differently to different diets
the question i have is: were you reacting to the meat?
it might have more to do with the additives and preservatives than the meat itself... i found that by having fresh caught (not farm produced or packaged) meat i did far better
big_hairy_jimbo
5 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2016
@leetennant you love making assumptions don't you!! Just wondering what world you live in, for people to not realise that meat is from an animal and doesn't just grow in a supermarket. Have you ever worked on a farm before, or even slaughtered an animal for your own consumption, because I have. So get yourself on a level playing field before firing off your kiddy insults.
Care to explain how the "cooperative international community" is supplying me with meat? Because the meat I eat is farmed RIGHT HERE in my town!!!! All other parts of the supply chain are in my state. So not really sure what it has to do with an "international community".
Phil DePayne
3.5 / 5 (2) Mar 26, 2016
I'm a vegetarian and only need to take a B12 pill once a week. Next to not smoking and exercise, it is the best thing I could have done for my health. I would eat fish but it is not affordable if it is not farmed, and salt water fish are loaded with even more chemicals. However, I learned the hard way--many "healthy" vegetables and nuts are loaded with oxalates, which can cause kidney stones. Also, it is impossible to eat at an average grocery store, since you have to remember to wash everything, meaning you have to stick to the pricey certified organic stuff. Then, I can't eat a lot of tofu either, it being a highly genetically modified organism, as well as having negative effects on testosterone levels.
I can see how it would be hard to convince the hamburger loving public to follow a reduced meat diet.
tblakely1357
5 / 5 (1) Mar 26, 2016
Wait ten years or so and there'll be a different 'ideal' diet often at odds with the previous 'ideal' diet.
Mayday
5 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2016
Vegan isn't for everyone. Carno isn't for everyone. We all have different likes. IMO, if you don't much like spending time eating, or don't have time to eat, or do A LOT of daily physical work, then you might be better off as a carno. But if you enjoy the act of eating, enjoy and seek different flavors, have the luxury of time to eat peaceably, then you'll really like vegan. As for flavors, take a close look at your spice rack. It's likely all vegan, except for the bacon bits. I notice that when carnos eat, they are often just choosing flavored fats, and those often within a narrow range of flavors. When I eat a carno meal, I am often taken by how after the first few bites, it mostly tastes the same because of the fat coating the tongue. But my vegan meals? Every bite is new. Suit yourself.

Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2016
I notice that when carnos eat, they are often just choosing flavored fats, and those often within a narrow range of flavors
@mayday
this depends on the person and the meat
Farm raised meat tends to be fattier than natural or wild meat, and the type of meat makes a difference too

typically people stick to meats that they like and don't venture into new or exotic dishes because of the fear of the unknown
it mostly tastes the same because of the fat coating the tongue
then you have a bad chef
But my vegan meals? Every bite is new
again, this is dependent upon the chef and number of items in the meal, right?
a meal of strictly onion will taste like onion, not bacon bits, so a meal of strictly a steak (no matter how it is seasoned) will taste like steak (seasoned)

if you want variety, it is left to the chef and choices of the individual for the meal

the absolute best diet will follow the food pyramid
(batteries and exercise not included)
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2016
Personally I'm in the "limited meat" crowd.

Humans are omnivores. Archeology and history teach us that for all of our existence, most humans practiced hunting and ate the things we caught and killed. On the other hand, also for all of our existence, we have practiced gathering- that is, finding vegetable food sources, and when the hunt didn't work out, that was how we ate.

I just don't think taking things to extremes works out very well generally. Note: neither extreme: neither vegan, nor the practice of eating meat every day. Veganism borderline risks deficiency diseases unless you spend a lot of time figuring out what all the requirements are and eating an extremely wide variety of things, some of which are not very palatable. The second risks higher rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
someone11235813
not rated yet Mar 27, 2016
Potatoes contain complete protein. How can a few extra vitamins or minerals be 'infeasible'[sic] and yet some massive meat slaughtering facility is not?


You wanna live on a diet of potatoes and pills?

The pharmaceuticals industry sure would love that.


You do realise that vitamins and minerals don't need to be supplied with pills.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2016
Personally I'm in the "limited meat" crowd.

Uh huh. That's not what your boyfriend says.
Mayday
5 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2016
CaptainS, I wasn't very clear in my point, so apologies. I think what I'm trying to say is that, IMO, vegan vs carno is largely about time and density of calories. The flavor variety bit was really just a passive aggressive knock on meat. Again, apologies. I'm obviously vegan, and eat a lot of food at most settings. I'm often surprised at restaurants, at how small most portions are, compared to my home vegan portions. And I do think the current trend in restaurant food is about too much flavored oil, even in good restaurants. I'll admit, it's hard to resist a good tasty fat. Some good examples are ice cream, chocolate, cheese, and most salad dressings. Please, let's all just enjoy life.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2016
apologies...a passive aggressive knock on meat. Again, apologies
@Mayday
Thank you & accepted. it takes all kinds to make the world go round, right?

the thing is: what is your body used to, what can it tolerate, and what is healthy for "your" body right? and that differs between individuals, though there is a general consensus about the food pyramid and exercise
I do think the current trend in restaurant food
this is all about $$ and normally has little to do with quality because in order to make the money you either need to buy from large operations who can support your rest. or you hike the prices to cover the cost of quality - the latter is a death sentence to a rest. unless it has specifically catered to a wealthier clientele and built a reputation as such.

to make it in the public sector, you need to make a profit to cover costs/overhead etc, and vegan/vegetarian dishes can be lucrative, but only with mass produced produce (IOW- cheap)
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2016
@mayday cont'd
IMO, vegan vs carno is largely about time and density of calories
but there is also the quality of the protein and it's effective use in the body
calories are great, and so are fats etc, but the one thing that a lot of vegans and vegetarians lack is a good source of protein

protein is a seriously important part of the diet and is required for a lot of things... and the absolute best source of protein is from meats (although it isn't the only source - it is simply the largest, most diverse and readily available source)
it's hard to resist a good tasty fat
true, but again, not all fats are created equal

an analogy: free speech
with free speech, we've entered the age of enlightenment and can share new ideas and knowledge

but if your only source of acceptable speech are ruled by bias and prejudice (like hate speech) then you will not get what you need for growth and maturity

& not all speech is considered equal
science trumps opinion, etc

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