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Researchers uncover potential key to combating non-communicable diseases — and it's surprisingly simple

"[It] is essential."

"[It] is essential."

Photo Credit: iStock

New research findings highlight plant-based diets as a solution for fighting non-communicable diseases and climate change

A group of Italian researchers published a review in the journal Nutrients, outlining how plant-based diets (PBDs) lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce total greenhouse gas pollution, as News Medical Life Sciences summarizes

To determine effective strategies for implementing PBDs in policymaking, the researchers studied the impact of PBDs on human health, the environment, and socioeconomic factors. 

According to the World Health Organization, the global obesity rate has tripled since 1975. Current Western diets that incorporate higher levels of salt, saturated fat, sugar, and meat have been associated with increased obesity rates and early mortality. 

On the other hand, individuals who adopt a plant-based dietary pattern have been found to have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

Transitioning to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes rather than one that emphasizes processed foods, poultry, and red meat also helps combat the "Global Syndemic," a phrase used to underscore the world's three major pandemics: obesity, undernutrition, and climate change, according to The Lancet. 

"Unhealthy dietary patterns are directly linked to the current Global Syndemic consisting of non-communicable diseases, undernutrition, and climate change," states the recent study in Nutrients. "The dietary shift towards healthier and more sustainable plant-based diets is essential."

By transitioning to PBDs such as the Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diet, or low-fat vegan diet, you can promote a healthy lifestyle that is also beneficial for the environment

Shifting from a predominantly animal-based diet to a PBD reduces greenhouse gas pollution by 22%, water use by 18%, and land use by 28%, according to the summary in News Medical Life Sciences. 

From a climate perspective, the transition to a plant-based diet also helps prevent deforestation for livestock grazing, which means more trees absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and cooling global temperatures.

"PBDs could be nutritionally adequate, healthy, culturally acceptable, affordable, and respectful towards the environment," write the researchers. "Substantial actions and interventions could include the update and effective dissemination of FDBGs, urban gardens, and farms establishment and promotion, food fortification, innovation of plant-based alternatives based on local foods and taxation of unhealthy food products."

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