Omnivore diets produce nearly 60% more GHG emissions than vegetarian diets in the UK says new research

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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A recent study published in PLOS ONE has revealed that a non-vegetarian diet emits 59% more emissions then a vegetarian one, with meat products making up 32% of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions.

The study conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds said that policies calling for sustainable diets should emphasise the importance of healthy, plant-based diets.

Around 15% of emissions were also found to come from certain drinks, while 14% came from dairy, and 8% from cakes, biscuits, and confectionary. To decrease this amount, researchers suggest replacing tea, coffee and alcohol with more sustainable alternatives as well as reducing the number of sweet snacks in people’s diets, which would also be beneficial to our health as well as reduce release of GHG.

Their study found that people who consumed the recommended intake of sodium, saturated fats and carbohydrates as outlined by the WHO, would also emit less GHG emissions.

The report notes: “Healthier diets had lower GHG emissions, demonstrating consistency between planetary and personal health.”

The study also shows that men’s diets contribute significantly more GHG emissions in comparison to women. On average, diets followed by men in the UK are said to produce 41% more emissions than those followed by women. The researchers noted that this difference in emissions was mainly due to the higher amount of meat consumed by men.

The 2021 Global Nutrition Report released yesterday (24.11.2021) also revealed that one portion of red meat releases around 100 times the emissions of a portion of plant-based food.

High-income countries such as the US eat the most foods that are both bad for the environment and our health. Both North American and Europe combined have 31% of premature deaths relating to dietary risks, which is one of the highest rates in the world.

The GNR Report also underlines that if the world were to follow the most popular diets in countries in Africa and Asia, food and drink consumption would increase warming to 60 -70% above the 1.5C global warming limit. If we were to follow a typical North American diet however, emissions would be predicted to be over 600% above safe levels.

According to the GNR Report, around half of the world’s population are overweight or underweight, with around 25% of all deaths in adults related to bad eating habits.

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