Eating a Diet That’s Good For Our Planet Can Lengthen Your Own Life

It’s a win-win situation!

A new study, published June 10, 2024, examines the health effects of the Planetary Health Diet (PHD) which was developed in 2019 as a part of the EAT-Lancet Commission.  The goal of the EAT-Lancet Commission is to achieve planetary health diets for the projected total population of the earth by 2050, ten billion people.  (1,2)

The PHD emphasizes a variety of minimally processed plant foods and low amounts of foods sourced from animals.  It is symbolically represented by half a plate of fruits and vegetables and the other half of primarily whole grains, plant proteins (beans, lentils, pulses, nuts) and unsaturated plant oils, with modest proportions of animal-sourced foods (meat and dairy), starchy vegetables and added sugars.  This diet is quite flexible, allowing for adaptations for personal preferences, dietary restrictions and cultural traditions.  Vegetarian and vegan diets are two healthy options within the PHD.

Study researchers used decades of health data from more than 200,000 women and men enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study I and II and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.  Participants were free of major chronic diseases at the start of the study.  They completed dietary questionnaires every four years for up to 34 years.   Their diets were scored as to how closely they aligned with the PHD.  Data for the more than 54,000 participants who died over the course of this study was included.

The strength of this study is its extremely long-term follow-up time.

Results revealed that …

The closer participants followed the PHD, the greater were their health benefits.

  • The risk of premature death was 30% lower in the top 10% of participants most closely following the PHD compared to those in the lowest 10%.
  • Every major cause of death was lower. This includes death from heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and respiratory diseases.
  • Besides increasing the consumption of healthy foods, reducing meat intake is an important step to take to reduce early death.
  • Climate change is largely driven by the burning of fossil fuels but it is worsened by emissions from agricultural activities. Approximately 80% of land in agricultural use on the planet is used for grazing and growing feed for livestock.

Participants in this study with the highest adherence to the PHD had substantially lower environmental

impacts than those with the lowest adherence including …

  • 29% lower greenhouse gas emissions
  • 21% lower fertilizer needs
  • 51% lower cropland use
  • Requirements for water were also significantly decreased.

The researchers also note that reducing land use by agriculture could free up land for reforestation, an effective way to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Eat-Lancet Commission states that, “Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth.”

The latest Canada Food Guide, published in 2019, aligns with these latest findings.  It sets out guidelines for increasing plant-sourced foods and limiting processed foods and sugary drinks.

These last words come from Walter Willett, one of the senior authors of this study and Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“Climate change has our planet on track for ecological disaster, and our food system plays a major role.  Shifting how we eat can help slow the process of climate change.  And what’s healthiest for the planet is also healthiest for humans.”

“The findings show just how linked human and planetary health are. Eating healthfully boosts environmental sustainability—which in turn is essential for the health and wellbeing of every person on earth.”



1  Bui, L.P., Tung, Wang, F., Chai, B., Sun, Q., Hu, F.B., Lee, K.H., Guasch-Ferre, M., Willett, W.C.  Planetary Health Diet Index and risk of total and cause specific mortality in three prospective cohorts. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 10, 2024.   Doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2024.03.019.





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Promoting a healthy adventurous lifestyle powered by plants and the strength of scientific evidence.

My name is Debra Harley (BScPhm) and I welcome you to my retirement project, this website. Over the course of a life many lessons are learned, altering deeply-rooted ideas and creating new passions.

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