In a new study of diets of over 16,000 people in the United States, it was found that climate friendly diet or low-carbon diets are not only good for the environment but are also quite healthy.
Findings of the study are detailed in a research paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Food production majorly contributes to the climate change and according to recent estimates, the environmental pressure of food production will surge up to 90% by 2050. The prediction is based on current population growing and growing consumption of food high in red meat as well as processed foods.
A previous study reported that 20% of Americans were accounted for around half the total US-diet related greenhouse gas emissions.
In an approach to assess the impact of diet on environment, a team of researchers at Tulane University and University of Michigan developed an extensive database of the greenhouse gas emissions due to the production of different types of foods. Further, they conducted a survey, asking around 16,000 Americans about what they ate over a typical 24-hour period.
The team used the database to determine the carbon-footprint of each diet and divided them into five equal groups based on the level of greenhouse gas emissions per 1000 calories consumed.
Amount of emission for the diets in the highest-impact group were around five times greater compared to those in the lowest-impact group. The team also used US healthy eating index, a federal measure of diet quality, to determine the nutritional value of each diet, which was then compared across five different environmental impact groups.
The researchers reported that highest-impact Low-Carbon Diets include more of meat, dairy products, and solid fats per 1,000 calories compared to lowest-impact diets.
Overall diets in the lowest-impact group were found to be healthier which are more plant-based with benefits of lowering the risks of common diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, few individuals in the group consumed more of low carbon-footprint items that are not healthy such as refined grains and added sugars.
According to lead author Dr. Diego Rose, individuals whose diet had lower carbon-footprint were consuming less red meat and dairy – which contribute to a large share of greenhouse gas emissions – and ate healthier including whole grains, plant-based proteins and poultry.
Study co-author Martin Heller explained that it is a win-win solution: Low-Carbon Diets that are healthy for people is also healthy for the environment.