Eating healthy could help save the environment

A new study shows that if many countries followed government dietary restrictions they could help cut down on global greenhouse gas emissions.
By Joseph Scalise | Dec 06, 2017
Eating healthy could help save the environment, giving another reason for people to start improving their diet.

This discovery comes from a group of international researchers, who found that if 28 different first world countries, including Japan, Germany, and the United States improved their eating habits, it would help the world as a whole. This type of healthy eating does not mean trying to lose a lot of weight or going gluten-free, it simply means following the recommended government dietary restrictions.

Food production -- which includes growing crops, raising livestock, and transportation -- creates 20 to 30 percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. Not only that, but one-third of the ice-free land on Earth is being used to grow food. If countries chose to eat healthier, both of those figures could be significantly reduced.

The data showed that if citizens followed dietary recommendations, greenhouse gases related to food production would fall by 13 to 25 percent. In addition, the amount of land needed to produce food would decrease by as much as 17 percent.

"Nationally recommended diets are a prominent method for informing the public on dietary choices," the researchers said in the study, according to International Business Times. "Although dietary choices drive both health and environmental outcomes, these diets make almost no reference to environmental impacts. Our study provides a comparison between the environmental impacts of average dietary intakes and a nation-specific recommended diet across 37 middle- and high-income nations,"

To gather this information, the researchers calculated the impact of the food people currently eat by using Exiobase, a massive database that holds information on greenhouse gas emissions, land demand, and fertilizer pollution caused by food production across the world. They then took that data and analyzed what would happen if people switched to the recommended diet. They found that it would be better for both the individual and the world.

"At least in high-income countries, a healthier diet leads to a healthier environment," said lead author Paul Behrens, an environmental scientist at Netherlands' Leiden University, according to Tech Times. "It's win-win."

This research is published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

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