What if our diets don’t change by 2050? New research tells the good and the bad!

Lynn Griffith
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As the population, cities, and income increase throughout the world, so does the consumption of refined sugars, fats, oils, resources, and animal products.  A new study from the University of Minnesota demonstrates how moving toward a Mediterranean, pescatarian, or vegetarian diet can not only boost human lifespan, but can also boost quality of life, reduce gas emission, and save endangered species. (1,2,3)

Research explores long term impact of typical omnivorous diet.

David Tilman and graduate student Michael Clark examined data on the environmental cost of food production, diet trends, relationships between diet and health, and population growth.  Their analysis shows how altering our current diets and changing our trajectory by modifying food choices would reduce health care costs by reduction of type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other chronic disease; it will also go a long way to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and save natural animal habitats as well.  (1,2,3)

“We showed that the same dietary changes that can add about a decade to our lives can also prevent massive environmental damage,” said Tilman, a professor in the University’s College of Biological Sciences and resident fellow at the Institute on the Environment. “In particular, if the world were to adopt variations on three common diets, health would be greatly increased; at the same time, global greenhouse gas emissions would reduce by an amount equal to the current greenhouse gas emissions of all cars, trucks, plans trains and ships. In addition, this dietary shift would prevent the destruction of an area of tropical forests and savannas as large as half of the United States.” (1,3)

Eating traditional Mediterranean, pescatarian, and vegetarian diet would reduce incidents of type II diabetes by 25 percent, cancer by 10 percent, and death from heart disease by 20 percent!

Researchers found that income increased between 1961 and 2009 but so did the amount of protein consumed, empty calories eaten, and total calories consumed per person.  When these trends were paralleled with population growth and income growth for future decades, the study predicts that diets in 2050 will contain fewer servings of fruits and vegetables, a 60 percent increase of empty calories, and 25-50 percent increase in pork, poultry, beef, dairy, and eggs.  This also predicts a linked increase in type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer.  One can only imagine the effects that this would have on our ecosystem and agriculture.  (1,2,3)

The study then compared the impacts of a traditional Mediterranean, pescatarian, and vegetarian diet.  Adopting these diets would reduce incidents of type II diabetes by 25 percent, cancer by 10 percent, and death from heart disease by 20 percent.  (1,2,3)

The authors pointed out that many people have already made these lifestyle changes, therefore encouraging countless others in the world that it is possible and it does indeed matter. (1,2,3)

Sources for this article include:
(1) www.sciencedaily.com
(2) www.dailymail.co.uk
(3) discover.umn.edu

Image source: flic.kr

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