Sustainability / Environment

Scientific Review Urges Switch to Plant-Based Diets as Preparation for Climate Change Emergencies

The nonprofit organization Center for Biological Diversity has released a new scientific review showing that switching to plant-based diets can help address the public health challenges that arise from climate change-related emergencies.

Healthy plant-based diets are crucial in preventing and controlling chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and hypertension, associated with poor dietary choices. A healthy population reduces the demand for a stressed healthcare system, enhancing individual and public resilience in climate and public health crises, argues the report.

“Most people in the United States have at least one diet-related chronic disease, and that makes them extremely vulnerable in a disaster,” said Mark Rifkin, senior food and agriculture policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the review.

Plant-based beet burger
© Actual Veggies

Preparing for climate disasters

According to the study, many healthcare facilities in the USA are regularly overwhelmed and may be unable to provide quality care during a disaster. This situation is prevalent in marginalized communities, where many suffer chronic illnesses. For example, in a natural disaster, people with diabetes may lose safe storage for insulin, which requires refrigeration.

“We have no choice but to improve our diets to better respond and adapt to these emergencies”

Moreover, besides impacting positively on human health, plant-based diets also have significant benefits for the planet. A new UK detailed study has assessed the environmental impact of high-meat, low-meat, vegetarian, and vegan diets, conclusively showing that avoiding animal products could help address the climate crisis.

“We know the next climate-related disaster is just around the corner. We have no choice but to improve our diets to better respond and adapt to these emergencies,” adds Rifkin.

Pepper Chickpea Tofu Franklin Farms
Pepper Chickpea Tofu © Franklin Farms

Better policy, better diets

The review highlights that the current nutrition policies implemented by the federal government need to be revised to effectively address the health and environmental crises that the public is currently experiencing. Shifting everyday eating habits requires an effective national nutrition policy. 

The study proposes four criteria for nutrition policy: objective government nutrition recommendations, healthy dietary patterns, adequate nutrition security, and effective nutrition education.

“Many Americans don’t realize their ability to survive the next flood, wildfire, or pandemic may directly depend on the food that’s on their plate. The federal government can’t ignore its responsibility to ensure that federal food policies encourage better diets, improve food security, and save lives,” added Rifkin.

The review, Nutrition policy critical to optimize response to climate, public health crises, has been published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

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