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Oxford and Minnesota universities' study suggest plant-based foods have lowest environmental impact


A new paper from researchers at the University of Oxford and University of Minnesota shows plant-based foods associated with health have among the lowest environmental impacts.


The study suggested foods such as cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and some vegetables oils were better for the environment.


It also revealed fish has moderate environmental impacts, ted meat (pork, beef, mutton, and goat) and processed meat had the highest environmental impacts of all foods and were also associated with the largest increases in disease risk.


Lead author Dr Michael Clark, of the Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) project at the Oxford Martin School, and the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, said:

"Diets are a leading source of poor health and environmental harm.
"Continuing to eat the way we do threatens societies, through chronic ill health and degradation of Earth’s climate, ecosystems, and water resources.
"Choosing better, more sustainable diets is one of the main ways people can improve their health and help protect the environment. How and where a food is produced also affects its environmental impact, but to a much smaller extent than food choice."

Using a comparison of an additional serving per day of 15 different foods, the researchers analysed collections of large cohort studies and life cycle assessments.


The health and environmental analyses each incorporated five outcomes which were total mortality, heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, and colorectal cancer for health; and greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, water pollution, and acidification potential for environment.


The results were consistent when applied across nearly all combinations of health and environmental outcomes.


Co-author Dr Marco Springmann, of the LEAP project and Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health added:

"The study adds to the growing body of evidence that stresses that replacing meat and dairy with a variety of plant-based foods can improve both your health and the health of the planet."

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