Vegetarianism Helps Health and the Environment

July 9, 20142488644619_481cbcce65_z

One characteristic that the majority of people have in common is that they love to eat food. However, the food people choose to eat has an impact on the environment. Here is some more information about how vegetarianism affects the environment and public health.

Food systems cause major strain on the environment and are a huge contributor to global warming. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health found that vegetarianism increases a person’s life span and reduces diet-related health risks while also benefiting the environment.

The researchers compared the diets of 73,000 vegetarians, semi-vegetarians and non-vegetarians and compared the affect on greenhouse gas emissions and found that less is produced with vegetable consumption. Researchers found that vegetarians have  lower occurrence of  heart disease, diabetes and stroke. The study found that the mortality rate of non-vegetarians was almost 20 percent higher than vegetarians and semi-vegetarians.

“The takeaway message is that relatively small reductions in the consumption of animal products result in non-trivial environmental benefits and health benefits,” said Sam Soret, Ph.D., associate dean at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and co-author of the study. “The level of detail we have on food consumption and health outcomes at the individual level makes these findings unprecedented.”

One reason many people are hesitant to start living a vegetarian lifestyle is because they think that it does not provide enough nutrients for healthy living. Meat contains a wide variety of nutrients including protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. However the U.S. Department of Agriculture says vegetarianism does provide enough nutrients, but vegetarians must eat a wide variety of food to get all of the necessary nutrients.

Some drawbacks for choosing to eat large quantities of meat are that it also destroys land faster and has contributed to tree reduction in order to make room for factory farm sheds as well as water contamination from untreated animal waste.

But if you are partial to eating meat, there are better options that are less harmful for the animals, your health and the environment such as picking antibiotic-free meat choices. More information about the study is published in July issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

 

-Sheila Headspeth

Photo credit: Flickr/ Martin Cathrae

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