Making a series of relatively minor and realistic changes to UK diets would reduce UK diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20 percent and extend average life expectancy by eight months, according to new model. 

In one paper, authors estimated the greenhouse gas emissions associated with current UK diets and with diets modified to meet World Health Organization (WHO) dietary recommendations. In another paper, they estimated the impact these dietary modifications would have on the health of the UK population.

Current average diets for men and women in the UK do not meet WHO nutritional recommendations, and it is estimated that diet-related ill-health costs the NHS around £6 billion annually. The authors used diet data from food diaries for 1,571 adults in the UK to estimate the effect on diet-related greenhouse gas emissions and on population health of modifying current diets to meet WHO dietary recommendations. Data on consumer behavior was used to define dietary changes likely to be acceptable to the public. The researchers modeled the changes in health outcomes such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes and a number of diet-related cancers, and in life expectancy resulting from the revised diet.

They found that bringing UK diets into line with WHO dietary recommendations, while maintaining a dietary pattern familiar to UK adults, would reduce UK diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by 17%. Their analysis also showed that if adopted, these dietary changes would have important benefits for the health of the UK population, saving almost seven million years of life lost prematurely in the UK over the next 30 years, and extending average life expectancy by approximately eight months (12 months for men and four months for women). The modified diet that could achieve these environmental and health benefits would contain less meat, less junk food and contain more fruit, vegetables and cereals. 


James Milner, Rosemary Green, Alan D Dangour, Andy Haines, Zaid Chalabi, Joseph Spadaro, Anil Markandya, Paul Wilkinson, Health effects of adapting low greenhouse gas emission diets in the UK, BMJ Open. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007364.

Rosemary Green, James Milner, Alan D Dangour, Andy Haines, Zaid Chalabi, Anil Markandya, Joseph Spadaro, Paul Wilkinson, The potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK through healthy and realistic dietary change, Climatic Change. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1329-y