Eat better, live longer and reduce greenhouse gas

British study says ‘minor’ adjustments would include fewer animal products, especially red meat, fewer savoury snacks and more fruit, vegetables and cereals

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Eating a more healthy diet could extend the British lifespan, lower health-care costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

The findings are based on two papers. The first, published in Climatic Change, estimates the greenhouse gas emissions associated with current U.K. diets and with diets modified to meet World Health Organization (WHO) dietary recommendations. The second, in the British Medical Journal’s BMJ Open models the impact these diet changes would have on the health of the U.K. population.

An LSHTM release says current average diets in the U.K. do not meet WHO nutritional recommendations, and it is estimated that diet-related ill health costs the British National Health Service around £6 billion (C$11.2 billion) annually.

The researchers said the proposed dietary changes were realistic and resulted in diets likely to be acceptable to the general public. The modified diet that could achieve these environmental and health benefits would contain fewer animal products, especially red meat, fewer savoury snacks and more fruit, vegetables and cereals. While the modified diet would require many minor adjustments, overall it would not be substantially different to the current average U.K. dietary pattern, the researchers said.

They said adopting the WHO diet would reduce U.K. diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent, save almost seven million years of life lost prematurely in the U.K. over the next 30 years, and extend average life expectancy by approximately eight months, mainly from reductions in coronary heart disease and stroke.

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