Fun fact of the day: The mortality rate for non-vegetarians is almost 20 percent higher than that for vegetarians and semi-vegetarians according to a new study. Also discovered in that study, a vegetarian diet can lead to a healthier planet.
The study comes from Loma Linda University School of Public Health, and will be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Basing their research on findings which identified food systems as a significant contributor to global warming, the researchers on the study looked at the dietary patterns of vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, and non-vegetarians in order to quantify and compare their greenhouse gas emissions. They also examined total mortality.
They found that not only do vegetarians have lower mortality rates, but switching to a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to a third.
Sam Soret, Ph.D., MPH, associate dean at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, and co-author of the study feels it indicates that small changes made by people can have a large impact on greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
“The takeaway message is that relatively small reductions in the consumption of animal products result in non-trivial environmental benefits and health benefits,” Soret said in a statement.
After drawing some of its data from the Adventist Health Study which studied more than 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists of varying ethnicities and geographical locations, Soret feels the study got a good glimpse of what the real impact of many people switching to a vegetarian diet could be.
“The study sample is heterogeneous and our data is rich,” Soret said. “We analyzed more than 73,000 participants. The level of detail we have on food consumption and health outcomes at the individual level makes these findings unprecedented.”
Joan Sabate, MD, DrPH, nutrition professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, and study co-author feels this study demonstrates better than studies before it the importance of a vegetarian diet, not just for our own health, but the health of the planet.
She also feels people need to reassess their nutritional practices to better align with a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian lifestyle.
“Throughout history, forced either by necessity or choice, large segments of the world’s population have thrived on plant-based diets,” she said.
Though people won’t stop eating meat overnight, large-scale studies like these may convince some people who are already on the fence. The study suggests that not only would a plant-based diet increase longevity, it would also help slow global warming and may aid in increasing food security worldwide.