The study, published today in the journal, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, is the first to estimate both the health and climate change effects of moving towards more plant-based diets for all major world regions.
Lead author Dr Marco Springmann, of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, said: 'What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the global environment. Imbalanced diets, such as diets low in fruits and vegetables, and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden globally and in most regions. At the same time the food system is also responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore a major driver of climate change.'
To assess the health and environmental effects, the researchers modelled four different dietary scenarios for the year 2050: a 'business as usual' scenario based on projections of future diets; a scenario based on global dietary guidelines which includes minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables, and limits to the amount of red meat, sugar, and total calories; and vegetarian and vegan scenarios which both conform to the dietary guidelines.