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Vegan Diet for a Healthy Planet
The food that people eat is just as important as what kind of cars
they drive when it comes to creating the greenhouse-gas emissions that
many scientists have linked to global warming, according to a report
accepted for publication in the journal Earth Interactions.
Both the burning of fossil fuels during food production and non-carbon
dioxide emissions associated with livestock and animal waste
contribute to the problem, the University of Chicago's Gidon Eshel and
Pamela Martin wrote in the report.
The average American diet requires the production of an extra ton and
a half of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon
dioxide as well as methane and other greenhouse gases compared to a
strictly vegetarian diet, according to Eshel and Martin. And with
Earth Day approaching on April 22, cutting down on just a few eggs or
hamburgers each week is an easy way to reduce greenhouse-gas
emissions, they said. "We neither make a value judgment nor do we make
a categorical statement," said Eshel, an Assistant Professor in
The vegetarian diet turned out to be the most energy-efficient,
followed by poultry and the average American diet. Fish and red meat
virtually tied as the least efficient.
The impact of producing fish came as the study's biggest surprise to
Martin, an Assistant Professor in Geophysical Sciences. "Fish can be
from one extreme to the other," Martin said. Sardines and anchovies
flourish near coastal areas and can be harvested with minimal energy
expenditure. But swordfish and other large predatory species required
energy-intensive long-distance voyages.
Martin and Eshel's research indicated that plant-based diets are
healthier for people as well as for the planet.
"The adverse effects of dietary animal fat intake on cardiovascular
diseases is by now well established. Similar effects are also seen
when meat, rather than fat, intake is considered," Martin and Eshel
wrote. "To our knowledge, there is currently no credible evidence that
plant-based diets actually undermine health; the balance of available
evidence suggests that plant-based diets are at the very least just as
safe as mixed ones, and most likely safer."
In their next phase of research, Eshel and Martin will examine the
energy expenditures associated with small organic farms, to see if
they offer a healthier planetary alternative to large agribusiness
companies. Such farms typically provide the vegetables sufficient to
support 200 to 300 families on plots of five to 10 acres.
"We're starting to investigate whether you can downscale food
production and be efficient that way," Martin said.
full story: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-04/uoc-svd041306.php