Switching to plant-based diets could help clean up the air, save over 2 lakh people worldwide: study

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Switching to plant-based diets could help clean up the air, save over 2 lakh people worldwide: study
Eight billion people walked into 2024, with perhaps a billion hoping to finally ditch that extra bit of weight for good this year. While treadmills and dumbbells might be a top pick for these aspirants, what if we told you that you could afford to lose the weight, and clean up the air in the process?
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It's no secret our food choices matter. But beyond lowering cholesterol and shrinking waistlines, a plant-powered shift packs a double punch: clearing the air we breathe and boosting the economy we work in.

Nearly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions arise from food systems, with animal farming being a major contributor. While methane often receives the centre-stage in this matter, ammonia from livestock forms another key ingredient. Ammonia reacts with other pollutants to hang as fine particulate matter in the air, which can be deadly for the organisms breathing it in.

World Health Organisation estimates showed that one-fifth of premature deaths, amounting to nearly four million lives, could be linked to outdoor air pollution in 2019. The newest study took it one step further, revealing that by simply switching from current diets to healthier, more plant-based ones, we stand to prevent up to 236,000 of these people from dying prematurely.

The research further shows that such green diets can have a major positive impact on the economy as well. A shift to vegan diets and cleaner air would boost productivity of workers, with estimates calculating an increase in global GDP by 1%, translating to a $1.3 trillion.

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This plant-based revolution isn't just about breathing easy — we must help the planet thrive as well. Less meat means less greenhouse gas, less land dedicated to animal feed, and less water splashed around. However, to make it an actual reality, we need farmers transitioning to sustainable practices, and policymakers sprinkling tax breaks on fruits and veggies while protecting vulnerable households.

The findings of this research have been published in Nature Communications and can be accessed here.
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