A recent study presented at the NUTRITION 2023 conference suggests that consuming a diet that is both healthy for individuals and environmentally sustainable can lead to a longer lifespan. The study used a tool called the Planetary Health Diet Index (PHDI) to evaluate the impact of various foods on human and environmental health. The results showed that individuals who followed a more sustainable diet had a 25% lower risk of death over a 30-year period compared to those who followed a less sustainable diet.
The study's author, Linh Bui, hopes that the research will inform policy decisions and help public health workers understand the healthiness and sustainability of their population's diet. Dieticians also believe that the study can empower individuals to make dietary changes that promote both their own health and the health of the planet.
The foods identified as having a positive impact on human health and the environment include whole grains, fruit, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, and unsaturated oils. These foods were associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases and had a lower environmental impact compared to foods like red and processed meats and eggs.
While the research provides valuable insights, experts acknowledge that there may be barriers to adopting a sustainable diet, such as health conditions, religious restrictions, socioeconomic status, and food availability. However, they encourage individuals to make small changes over time, gradually incorporating more plant-based foods into their meals and trying new recipes with fruits and vegetables.
Other research supports the benefits of a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of chronic conditions. The link between red meat, eggs, and health outcomes is more complex and requires further study.
In addition to focusing on food choices, experts recommend considering other factors such as eating locally sourced foods, reducing food waste, choosing organic produce when possible, and exploring plant-based protein options.
Overall, the study highlights the potential for a diet that promotes both individual health and environmental sustainability. By making conscious choices and embracing planet-friendly foods, individuals can contribute to their own well-being and reduce the impact on the planet.