Elon Musk recently announced that if he is successful at establishing a colony on Mars it will be a plant-based community. Why? If you believe that “You are what you eat” applies to human health, then a powerful study calculating the benefits of shifting away from eating meat and towards plant-based nutrition makes the case that our world and our global health is what we eat.

Regardless of whether you plan to live on Mars or Earth, in a recent study from Oxford, scientists identified that eating more plant-based foods could reduce mortality worldwide between 6 and 10 percent, translating to millions of lives and billions of dollars saved. 

More importantly, this will allow for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 29 to 70 per cent tied to food production by the year 2050.

What we eat impacts our environment

Dietary changes and the environment“Dietary change could have large health and environmental benefits,” says Marco Springmann, the lead author of the study and a sustainability researcher at Oxford University.

He went on to say that “we do not expect everybody to become vegan… but, if they did, they’d live longer and help reduce the changes that are damaging the planet and the climate.” 

Without a doubt, what we eat greatly influences our personal health and the global environment.

Scientists in the above study used health models and emissions models to predict the impact of dietary changes. By projecting what would happen to the health of the world and its citizens by eating more servings of fruit and vegetables daily along with reducing the consumption of animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, the scientists highlighted the profound global impact of a plant-based plate.

Is red meat really that bad?

In October 2015 the World Health Organization announced that eating processed meats causes cancer, classifying these food items as class 1 carcinogens along with smoking and asbestos.

Meat and Cancer Risk

Image Credit: Cancer Research UK

And what about climate change?

When it comes to climate change, following dietary recommendations in the second approach cut food-related emissions by 29 per cent while adopting vegetarian diets would cut them by 63 percent and vegan diets by a stunning 70 percent.

Dietary Changes Climate ChangeDietary shifts could produce savings of $700 billion to $1 trillion per year on healthcare, unpaid care and lost working days, while the economic benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as $570 billion, the study found. The researchers of the Oxford study found that three-quarters of all benefits would occur in developing countries, although the per capita impacts of dietary change would be greatest in developed nations, due to higher rates of meat consumption and obesity. The study projects that significant healthcare savings would be associated in proportion to the dietary shifts.

Ultimately, it does not matter whether you live on Mars or Planet Earth. It is fair to say that eating a steak could be a ‘big’ Mistake!

1. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. Marco Springmann, H. Charles J. Godfray, Mike Rayner, and Peter Scarborough. March 21, 2016. 113(15)4146-4151. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1523119113
2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. World Health Organization. PRESS RELEASE N° 240 26 October 2015 IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat. https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf

If you have enjoyed this topic, you might also like to watch Dr Arun’s Youtube Video Best Source of Iron – Is having Steak a “Mistake”?

Helping You Discover, Empower & Prosper

Dr Arun Dhir  |  GI Surgeon, Health Reformist & Passionate Educator.

Dr Arun Dhir

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About Dr Arun:

Besides having a busy private practice at Melbourne Gastro Surgery – Centre for Weight Loss, Dr Arun is an active member of the ANZ Association of Gastro-Oesophageal surgeons (ANZGOSA), ANZ Society of Metabolic and Obesity Surgery (OSSANZ) and Australian College of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM).

Dr Arun is also a senior lecturer (University of Melbourne) and yoga and meditation teacher, with a strong interest in the mind-body-gut connection. He regularly writes and speaks about gut health, gut microbiome, obesity, gastrointestinal surgery and healing. Arun’s published works include Happy Gut Healthy Weight (Balboa Press 2018), Creating a New You – Health Journal (Metagenics 2019), and Your Mess Has a Message (2021).