Different health organizations and government agencies have issued dietary recommendations or guidelines mainly to reduce calorie intake and curb obesity. These, however, may only be counterproductive as a new study reveals that they may not be friendly to the environment at all.
A research team of the University of Michigan tried to establish the relationship between greenhouse emissions and present dietary guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). They discovered that following the recommendations may hardly have any effect on the reduction of greenhouse emissions as any positive changes can easily be offset by other dietary needs. For instance, while the diet may reduce the intake of red meat, it may increase the production of dairy products like milk.
In the current diet, the greenhouse emission per day is 17% dairy, 2% seafood, 4% vegetables, and 58% meat, poultry, and eggs. If the guidelines will be followed, the emission will increase to 31% dairy and 9% fruits. Meat-based products, meanwhile, will decrease to 38%.
Nevertheless, the diet itself doesn't specifically mention any reduction on meat consumption but rather on trans and saturated fat, refined grains, sugar, and cholesterol. Different types of meat, especially cattle, are some of the biggest contributors of greenhouse emission in the world. In a 2007 study, researchers discovered that there is a direct relationship between the increase in livestock and amount of methane produced. Growing them can also cause indirect emission due to deforestation.
The research team concludes that dietary needs and environment sustainability are incompatible and that the government agencies should work in keeping these two aligned. Shifting on a more plant-based diet, further, may be one of the effective solutions.
Obesity is a rapidly growing problem in the United States. More than 32% of its population is already considered obese. It is also an expensive disorder, costing over $147 billion in health care as of 2008. In other words, patients spent a thousand dollars higher than those with normal weight.
Although food plays a very huge role in the rise of obesity, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also mentions other potential causes such as environment, heredity, medications, health conditions, sleep loss, age, and emotional health.