People who adopt environmentally sustainable diets or planet friendly foods have a staggering 25% lower risk of mortality, according to a recent study.
The study builds upon previous research that identified specific foods beneficial for both human health and the environment. Foods such as whole grains, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, and unsaturated oils were found to have positive effects. Conversely, the consumption of eggs, red meat, and processed meats had detrimental impacts on both human health and the environment. Embracing planet-friendly foods not only reduces the risk of death from various causes, such as cancer, heart disease, respiratory diseases, and neurodegenerative conditions but also contributes to lowering environmental impacts, including water use, land use, nutrient pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
CREATION OF THE PLANETARY HEALTH DIET INDEX (PHDI)
In order to aid policymakers and public health practitioners in developing strategies to improve public health and address climate concerns, researchers introduced the Planetary Health Diet Index (PHDI). The index is based on the EAT-Lancet reference diet, which takes into account the environmental impacts of food production practices.
The study analyzed data from over 100,000 participants in two large cohort studies conducted in the United States, revealing that individuals with higher PHDI scores enjoy a 25% lower risk of death from any cause compared to those with lower scores. Additionally, higher PHDI scores were associated with a 15% lower risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular diseases, a 20% lower risk of death from neurodegenerative disease, and an impressive 50% lower risk of death from respiratory diseases.
“We proposed a new diet score that incorporates the best current scientific evidence of food effects on both health and the environment,” said Linh Bui, MD, a PhD candidate in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The results confirmed our hypothesis that a higher Planetary Health Diet score was associated with a lower risk of mortality.”
ADAPTING THE PHDI FOR DIVERSE FOOD CULTURES
While the PHDI offers valuable insights, the researchers acknowledge that it may not encompass all food items and their relationships with major diseases across all countries. Various individuals may encounter challenges in adhering to a sustainable diet due to specific health conditions, religious restrictions, socioeconomic status, or food availability. To overcome these limitations, further research is needed to adapt the index to different food cultures and validate its associations with chronic diseases and environmental impacts in diverse populations.
Embracing planet-friendly foods not only leads to improved personal health but also makes a positive contribution to the environment. By making informed food choices, we can pave the way towards a healthier, more sustainable future for both ourselves and the planet. As this research continues to evolve, its insights hold the potential to shape public health policies and inspire individuals worldwide to adopt a diet that not only nurtures their well-being but also safeguards the planet we call home.