MONDAY, Nov. 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Plant-based diets may be better for the environment, but they’re not all created equal, according to new research.
The best type of plant-based diet for health and environmental benefits are those highest in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils, and tea/coffee.
Meanwhile, plant-based diets high in fruit juices, sugary drinks, refined grains, potatoes and sweets/desserts are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease and are less environmentally friendly, the authors say. of the study.
“The differences between plant-based diets were surprising, as they are often described as universally healthy and good for the environment, but it’s more nuanced than that,” said corresponding author Aviva Musicus. She is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston.
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“To be clear, we are not claiming that less healthy plant-based diets are worse for the environment than animal-based diets. However, our results show that plant-based diets can have negative impacts. differences on health and the environment,” Musicus said in a school press release.
While previous research has documented that different types of plant-based diets have varying health effects, little work has been done to determine the different environmental impacts, which may include greenhouse gas emissions, use of high quality cropland, nitrogen from fertilizers and irrigation. the water.
For the study, researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study II to analyze the dietary intake of more than 65,000 people. The team analyzed the participants’ diets both for associations with health outcomes, such as heart disease, and for environmental impacts.
Diets were scored on whether they were higher in unhealthy refined grains, for example, or healthier whole grains.
The research team found that participants who ate healthy plant-based diets had a lower risk of heart disease. These diets were also linked to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and use of cropland, irrigation water and nitrogen fertilizers compared to unhealthy plant-based diets and plant-based diets. of animals.
These results also reinforced previous studies showing that diets high in animal-based foods, particularly red and processed meat, have greater negative environmental impacts than plant-based diets, the authors noted. study.
“Because human health ultimately depends on planetary health, future U.S. dietary guidelines should include a nuanced consideration of environmental sustainability and recognize that not all plant-based diets confer the same health benefits. health and the environment,” according to study co-author Daniel Wang, an assistant professor in Harvard’s Department of Nutrition.
The results were published online November 11 in The Planetary Health of the Lancet log. The study was supported by the US National Institutes of Health.
The US Department of Agriculture has more information on vegetarian diets.
SOURCE: Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, press release, November 10, 2022
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