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Harvard: Planetary Health Diet Can Lower Risk of Premature Death – The Food Institute



A new study conducted by Harvard researchers revealed that people who eat a healthy, sustainable diet may substantially lower their risk of premature death in addition to their environmental impact. Researchers named the dietary pattern – which emphasizes a variety of minimally processed plant foods but allows for modest consumption of meat and dairy – the Planetary Health Diet, or PHD.

Researchers used health data from more than 200,000 people that were free from major chronic diseases and completed dietary questionnaires every four years for up to 34 years. The study found that the risk of premature death was 30% lower in the top 10% of participants most closely adhering to PHD compared to those in the lowest 10%. Every major cause of death, including cancer, was lower with greater adherence to the Planetary Health Diet.

“Climate change has our planet on track for ecological disaster, and our food system plays a major role,” said Professor Walter Willett, one of the authors of a report based on the findings. “Shifting how we eat can help slow the process of climate change.

“What’s healthiest for the planet is also healthiest for humans.”

The Harvard researchers also found that, of the men and women they studied, those with the highest adherence to the Planetary Health Diet had a substantially lower environmental impact than those with the lowest adherence, including 51% lower cropland use and 29% lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our study is noteworthy, given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has refused to consider the environmental impacts of dietary choices, and any reference to the environmental effects of diet will not be allowed in the upcoming revision of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines,” Willett said.

“The findings show just how linked human and planetary health are,” the professor added. “Eating healthfully boosts environmental sustainability – which, in turn, is essential for the health and wellbeing of every person on earth.”


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