This Eco-Friendly Diet May Reduce Early Death Risk by 30%

This Eco-Friendly Diet May Reduce Early Death Risk by 30%

This Eco-Friendly Diet May Reduce Early Death Risk by 30%

What you eat impacts the health of your body and mind. But have you ever wondered how your diet and the environment are related? According to a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on June 10th, 2024, the best diet for your health may also be the best for the planet. The research suggests that eating a diet rich in plant-based whole foods with limited meat and dairy consumption may reduce your risk of premature death by 30%. These findings are timely, considering premature death from the top five killers in the U.S. has been steadily on the rise since 2019. Read on to discover more about the study’s findings and what they could mean for your longevity and the planet.

What the Study Found 

To arrive at these conclusions, researchers with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined the long-term effects of adhering to the dietary recommendations outlined in the landmark 2019 EAT-Lancet report. Dubbed the Planetary Health Diet (PHD), this dietary pattern emphasizes plant-based whole foods while allowing for moderate meat and dairy consumption. On a planetary health plate, half the plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, while the other half is primarily made up of whole grains, plant protein, unsaturated plant oils and a small amount of animal protein (if any).

As our planet faces the looming threat of climate change, the role of our food system in driving environmental degradation cannot be overstated. Corresponding author Walter Willett, M.D., a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement, “Climate change has our planet on track for ecological disaster, and our food system plays a major role. Shifting how we eat can help slow the process of climate change. And what’s healthiest for the planet is also healthiest for humans.

Unlike previous studies that relied on one-time dietary assessments, this research analyzed health data from over 200,000 participants enrolled in long-term cohort studies, tracking their diets over an extended period—even spanning decades in some cases. The researchers examined the association between adherence to the PHD and the risk of premature death.

Participants who closely followed the PHD experienced a remarkable 30% lower risk of premature death compared to those with lower adherence. This significant reduction in mortality spans across all major causes of death, including cancer, heart disease and lung disease, highlighting the profound impact that dietary choices can have on human health and longevity.

The research team found that the PHD also had a positive impact on the environment. Participants with the highest adherence to the PHD exhibited significantly lower environmental footprints, including 29% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 21% lower fertilizer needs and 51% lower cropland use.

“Our study is noteworthy given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has refused to consider the environmental impacts of dietary choices and any reference to the environmental effects of diet will not be allowed in the upcoming revision of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines,” said Willett. “The findings show just how linked human and planetary health are. Eating healthfully boosts environmental sustainability—which in turn is essential for the health and well-being of every person on Earth.”

The Bottom Line 

This new research suggests that prioritizing plant-based whole foods while consuming meat and dairy in moderation may significantly reduce your risk of early death, help minimize your environmental footprint and preserve our planet. As we confront the dual challenges of climate change and public health, it’s essential to embrace sustainable dietary patterns like the Planetary Health Diet which offer a tangible pathway toward a healthier and more resilient future for both humanity and the environment.