Time to ditch the sausages? Reducing consumption of red and processed meat and eating more fruit and vegetables could increase the average life expectancy by EIGHT MONTHS, study finds
- Eating less meat could increase average life expectancy by eight months – study
- Researchers said it would also cut deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer
- Part of a report into how climate change measures can improve people’s health
- Experts said more cycling and walking could save NHS £17 billion over 20 years
Reducing the consumption of red and processed meat and eating more fruit and vegetables could increase the average life expectancy by eight months, a new study suggests.
Researchers said it would also cut deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Their recommendations are part of a report by the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society, which looked at how climate change measures can improve people’s health and save lives both now and in the long term.
Experts said that increasing physical activity, for example by cycling or walking rather than driving, would not only be beneficial health-wise but could also save the NHS £17 billion over 20 years.
Phasing out fossil fuels could cut the 36,000 premature deaths a year from air pollution, the paper adds, while better home insulation would prevent fatalities linked to low temperatures, which account for up to 50,000 deaths a year.
Reducing the consumption of red and processed meat and eating more fruit and vegetables could increase the average life expectancy by eight months, a study suggests (stock image)
HOW DOES FOOD PRODUCTION HURT THE ENVIRONMENT?
Meat and dairy accounts for 57 per cent of food-based greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new computer modelling study.
The research, led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, found that food-based agriculture is responsible for 17.318 billion metric tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions per year. This is 35 per cent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Broken down by food type:
– Animal-based food emissions contribute 57 per cent (9.8 billion metric tonnes)
– Plant-based food emissions contribute 29 per cent (5.1 billion metric tonnes)
– ‘Non-food’ utilisation such as cotton and rubber production contributes 14 per cent
Sir Andy Haines, co-chairman of the report and professor of environmental change and public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘This report brings us some profoundly good news: the choices we make individually and as a society to prevent climate change will also improve our health, with the potential to reduce the pressure on our overburdened health services — both now and for future generations.’
The report brought together 11 leading experts to review evidence from a range of sources around the health impacts of initiatives to tackle climate change.
It concludes that if health is made central to the climate agenda, then actions taken to reach UK net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will have near-term benefits for human health, in the UK, as well as helping to reduce the risks to health from global climate change.
Sir Andy added: ‘Our report gives many “win-win” examples of actions that would have a positive impact on health and the climate.
‘Sectors including transport, food, building and energy should take health into account when implementing climate actions to capitalise on these double benefits.
‘Many of the measures, such as improved public transport access and energy efficient housing, could also help decrease health inequalities.’
Consuming a healthy diet containing reduced red and processed meats and increased fruits and vegetables is projected to increase average life expectancy by about eight months, according to the report, and reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by around 17 per cent.
Consuming a healthy diet containing more fruits and vegetables is projected to increase average life expectancy by about eight months, according to the report (stock image)
The report was released ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November 2021.
The pivotal meeting is expected to set the course of climate action for the next decade.
Professor Joanna Haigh, co-chair of the report, said: ‘Climate change poses a catastrophic threat to humanity and the natural systems that underpin our lives.
‘It is obvious that tackling climate change will have a positive impact on human health in the long term, however our report provides evidence that many of the actions needed for the UK to meet the target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will also benefit our health in the near term.
‘We would like to see the UK government seize the opportunity provided by COP26 to show global leadership and bring health to the forefront of the climate narrative.’
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide