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Lifestyle News | Healthy plant-based meals are better for the environment: study

Boston [US]Nov 11 (ANI): According to a new study by researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, healthier plant-based eating habits were associated with better environmental health, while Less healthy plant-based eating habits, which are higher in foods like refined grains and sugary drinks, have required more cropland and fertilizers.

“The differences between plant-based diets were surprising because they are often described as universally healthy and good for the environment, but it’s more nuanced than that,” said Aviva Musicus, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School and corresponding author of the study. “To be clear, we are not claiming that less healthy plant-based diets are worse for the environment than animal-based diets. However, our results show that plant-based diets can have negative impacts. different on health and the environment.”

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The study, which is one of the first to simultaneously examine the health and environmental impacts of various plant-based diets, was published in the November 2022 edition of The Lancet Planetary Health.

Previous research has shown that different types of plant-based diets have varying health effects. For example, plant-based diets high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils, and tea/coffee are associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease, while plant-based diets high in lemon juice fruits, sugary drinks, refined grains, potatoes and sweets/desserts are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease. Yet little research has been conducted to determine the environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions, high-quality cropland use, fertilizer nitrogen, and irrigation water, of these dietary approaches.

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Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, researchers analyzed the dietary intakes of more than 65,000 trained participants and examined the associations of their diet with health outcomes, including relative risks of cardiovascular diseases, and with environmental impacts. To differentiate between plant-based diets, the researchers characterized the participants’ diets using various dietary indices, including healthy and unhealthy plant-based diet indices. Higher scores on the unhealthy plant-based diet index indicated higher consumption of refined grains, sugary drinks, fruit juices, potatoes, and sweets/desserts; while higher scores on the healthy plant-based diet index indicated higher consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils and tea/coffee.

Participants who consumed healthy plant-based diets had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and these diets had lower greenhouse gas emissions and use of cropland, irrigation water, and nitrogen fertilizers lower than diets that were higher in unhealthy plant and animal foods. Participants who ate unhealthy plant-based diets had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and their diets required more cropland and fertilizer than diets that were higher in healthy plant- and animal-based foods . The findings also reinforced previous studies showing that diets high in animal-based foods, particularly red meat and processed meat, have greater negative environmental impacts than plant-based diets.

“Because human health ultimately depends on planetary health, future U.S. dietary guidelines should include a nuanced consideration of environmental sustainability and recognize that not all plant-based diets confer the same health benefits. health and the environment,” said Daniel Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition. at Harvard Chan School, Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study. (ANI)

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