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2016 Conference

Abstract Number: O-035 | ID: 3305

Co-benefits of food policies: climate and health

Paolo Vineis, Imperial College London, United Kingdom, p.vineis@imperial.ac.uk; Pauline Scheelbeek*, London School of Hygeine, United Kingdom, pauline.scheelbeek@gmail.com; Alexandre Strapasson, Imperial College, Centre for Environmental Policy, United Kingdom, alexandre.strapasson@imperial.ac.uk;
The transition to higher meat intake over the past decades has had a significant impact on chronic non-communicable diseases incidence, including cancers, coronary heart disease and type II diabetes. The same transition is believed to be responsible for an increase of greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, emissions of CO2eq per gram of protein in ruminant meats can be as high as 250 times those per gram of protein in legumes
Methods -We have used several sources to estimate the advantages of a shift towards a more vegetarian diet. We used the WCRF guidelines applied to a large epidemiological study (EPIC) to assess health impacts of meat reduction in diets. We have used the Global Calculator to estimate the land use impact of meat production and the implications for GHG emissions in order to stay below the 1.5°C target.
Results – 1.Health: EPIC study participants within the highest (most vegetarian) category had a 34% lower hazard of death (95% CI: 0.59, 0.75) compared with participants within the lowest category. The WCRF/AICR score was significantly associated with a lower hazard of dying from cancer, circulatory disease, and respiratory disease. 2. Climate: By changing the meat consumption-scenario from the FAO forecast to the WHO recommendation, it would be possible to avoid almost 20 GtCO2eq/year in 2050, including the consequential changes in land use, soil carbon, enteric-fermentation and forestlands. This simulation represents about 40% of the current global GHG emissions for all sectors combined, and the benefit could be even higher by also increasing agricultural and livestock yields.
Discussion - Changes in food habits have a strong impact on land use (and thus greenhouse emissions), and a strong impact on the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCD). Both the goals of the UN/WHO 25x25 strategy on NCDs and of COP21 would be reached with an immediate intervention on food production, partially shifting habits from meat to vegetables and legumes.