Climate Change, Health, and Diet

Raw_vegan_lunchOriginally published at the Huffington Post by Chantelle DMello.

According to a new study, the small vegan population might just have the right idea. Turns out, going vegan could be the key to saving both the planet and millions of lives.

According to researchers at Oxford University, worldwide veganism would also save some $700 billion to $1 trillion per year on health care, and cut food-related emissions by 70 percent. The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mark the first time that researchers have looked into the impact of a worldwide vegan diet on health and climate change:

What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the environment we all share. Recent analyses have highlighted the likely dual health and environmental benefits of reducing the fraction of animal-sourced foods in our diets. Here, we couple for the first time, to our knowledge, a region-specific global health model based on dietary and weight-related risk factors with emissions accounting and economic valuation modules to quantify the linked health and environmental consequences of dietary changes. We find that the impacts of dietary changes toward less meat and more plant-based diets vary greatly among regions. The largest absolute environmental and health benefits result from diet shifts in developing countries whereas Western high-income and middle-income countries gain most in per capita terms. Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6–10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29–70% compared with a reference scenario in 2050. We find that the monetized value of the improvements in health would be comparable with, or exceed, the value of the environmental benefits although the exact valuation method used considerably affects the estimated amounts. Overall, we estimate the economic benefits of improving diets to be 1–31 trillion US dollars, which is equivalent to 0.4–13% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050. However, significant changes in the global food system would be necessary for regional diets to match the dietary patterns studied here.

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16 Responses to Climate Change, Health, and Diet

  1. Nice article. From a health perspective, I’ve seen many sick vegan patients in my practice and I recommend my patients to follow the vegan diet with a fine tooth comb, I give them this article first by Dr. John McDougall:

    Krishna is a cowherd boy and Goloka is pretty much a cow loka.

    Veganism and the diary-phobia it brings with it works against Krishna bhakti. Perhaps Sandeepani muni should include veganism in his curriculum for Krishna, so Krishna can change his stance towards promoting dairy – organic or not, both clog your arteries, shoots up your cholesterol and causes strokes, cancers and heart attacks according to several consistent double-blind controlled studies. Thoughts?

  2. I think if people were to be able to get their dairy from ahimsa sources, they wouldn’t be overindulging in dairy to the point where it becomes a health concern. There simply would not be the unnatural unending supply, and what was available would be shared around the community in fair helpings that would keep everyone healthy and happy and balanced.

    And among the vegan devotees that I’ve been around, few reject ahimsa dairy when it is available (unless it is for specific medical health reasons individual to themselves) – it is the systematic abuse and exploitation of the cow that motivates the bulk of them to eschew dairy under most circumstances, myself included.

    I can’t see Krishna being OK with the consumption of factory farmed dairy, considering how poorly the animals are treated. It’s one thing to be honoring the excess milk a cow gives who is loved and cared for. It is quite another to be taking it from an animal who is being forced to give birth repeatedly, and immediately separated from her calf (who is then killed if it is male, or subjected to the same torture if it is female), is shot full of all sorts of hormones and drugs to make her produce an unnatural and painful amount of milk, and then who is killed once she doesn’t give enough for her to be profitable any longer.

    • Rasa-keli,
      Thank you for your thoughts on this. There is also a discussion on the A1 and A2 milk, which brings up many discussions.

      We are the only species that drink the milk of another mammal. This makes me cringe a bit. Well, for us devotees, we can settle with the fact that Krishna loves cows and dairy. It is not easy to understand Krishna!

      • We are the only species that grows food as well. But actually we are not the only mammal that drinks the milk of another.I have seen dogs drink milk directly from cow’s teats. Cat’s love milk. We just raised two baby goats on cow’s milk after her mother was killed by a lion.

        • Interesting. Dairy raises cholesterol and is artery clogging. It seems like an unnatural product for humans from a health perspective. What are your thoughts on this article by Dr. John McDougall?

        • I did not read the whole article, but factory farm milk is not raw organic milk. The latter is what I consume. There is much to be said about its health benefits and it is recommended in revelation. Exercise is probably more important for health than diet.

        • Thank you Swami. I will try that. By ‘revelation’, did you mean Ayurveda or any ancient text in particular?

        • Ayurveda and really all of the sacred texts of the Hindus promote the domestication of cows an the use of their milk in religious life. The Go-sūkta says: gobhyo yajñāḥ pravartante gobhyo devāḥ samuthitāḥ gobhir vedāḥ samudgīrṇāḥ sa-ṣaḍaṅga-pada-kramāḥ “Sacrifices begin with the cows. The devatās arise from the cows. The Vedas along with the recitation of the six aṅgas were proclaimed by the cows.”

        • Thanks Swami for the text and your insights, I’m learning much. Upon further research, I also feel that these vedic verses refer to the vedic cows that have a hump. These cows have a different genetic structure, mental state and A2 beta casein protein in her milk. Western cows are humpless with A1 beta casein and technically not the “Go” mentioned in vedic revelation, they are called “Gavaya” if we consult people in tradition who have been maintaining cows in rural India. Ancient Hindus domesticated the “Go” and not “Gavaya”. Along with a hump, vedic cows have a loose skin under the neck and a short glossy hair with greasy appearance.

          The cow that are labeled and described as kamadhenu in ancient texts is not the humpless western cow, but the humped vedic cow.

          The milk of humped vedic cow is called A2 milk and milk from most humpless western cows is A1 milk. Per scientific studies, A2 milk seems to be better when compared to the A1 milk.

          It would be interesting to see more epidemiological studies conducted on people drinking raw organic milk.

        • Most Jersey cows are also A2. Other then this difference I have not found any observable evidence or scriptural evidence that Bos Indicus cows produce more nutritious/healthy milk than Bos Taurus cows. But there may be environmental advantages that Bos Indicus cows encounter that has beneficial affects. For example, some claim that due to Bos Indicus being prevalent in hot, humid, disease-prone tropical regions the species has developed a strong resistance to many pathogens and parasites. These disease-resistance qualities and greater good bacterial strains in their guts are thought by some to be passed on in the milk produced from these animals to their offsprings and also to humans who drink they milk. However, I know of no studies to support such theories, and for that matter there are Bos Taurus cows that are also raised in the topics.

          The idea that Hindus did not domesticate Bos Taurus for good reasons seems doubtful to me because there is no evidence I am aware of that Bos Taurus cows existed in India before they were brought there, at which time they were integrated into the dairy industry. Of course the sacred cow depicted in sastra is the Bos Indicus since that is the cow that is native to India. But that does not mean that Bos Taurus cows are not sacred or that their milk is unhealthy any more than food not grown in India when Krsna or Rama were present is not fit to be offered to the Deity. Such food is fit to be offered and so to is the milk of Bos Taurus cows, especially Jersey cows who are a naturally occurring breed unlike Holsteins.

          Here at Audarya we have Jersey and Zebu cows. The milk of the Jerseys’ is richer and more plentiful.

        • Thanks again. I enjoyed the discussion.

        • About the humped ancient Indian cows, I found this in a blog, it was fascinating to read about this, the author has not stated the exact scriptural text though:

          “Scriptures state that gomāta has a unique sūrya Ketu ṇādi on her back. This is the main reason why her blood has gold salts which produce miracles. We get copper from her urine because of this nādi. You can feel the surya Ketu ṇādi of any pure Indian humped cow. When you move your fingers through the backbone starting from the hump, you should be able to feel a small cavity on her backbone denoting the nerve. This nādi causes all secretions of purity, whether it is milk or urine or cowdung. This nadi absorbs energy from sun and the universe as per ancient Ayurvedic texts. On a western or hybrid Indian cow, this backbone will be visible using the sense of eyesight but no such nerve can be felt.”

        • Yes, no scriptural or observable (scientific) support. His statements are perhaps superstitious or racist. Meanwhile there is scientific support for the value of raw Bos Taurus as well as Bos Indicus cows. The A1/A2 argument has gained some ground scientifically speaking, but I am not sure it is all that detrimental to drink A1 milk. Millions of people have drunk it for thousands of years with good results.

        • Yes, he often writes in racist language with jewish conspiracy theories.

          The gold salt information is probably right.

          You are right, prior to industrialization, I don’t think the A1 milk drinkers were having toxic health issues in the west much like today. Factory farming seems to have changed everything.

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