"Increased uptake of plant-based diets in New Zealand could substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions while greatly improving population health and saving the healthcare system billions of dollars in the coming decades, according to a new University of Otago study.
Lead researcher and Otago medical student Jono Drew explains the global food system is driving both the climate crisis and the growing burden of common chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
“International research has highlighted the climate and health co-benefits that arise from consuming a diet that is rich in plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. We wanted to understand if this holds true here in New Zealand, and to tease out which eating patterns could offer the greatest co-benefits in this context.”
The research team developed a New Zealand-specific food emissions database that, in estimating greenhouse gas emissions arising from foods commonly consumed in New Zealand, considers important parts of the ‘lifecycle’ of each food, including farming and processing, transportation, packaging, warehouse and distribution, refrigeration needs, and supermarket overheads. Using their database, the team was then able to model climate, health, and health system cost impacts stemming from a range of dietary scenarios."