Following a fish-based pescatarian diet or plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet is associated with not only the greatest benefit to health but also the lowest impact on the environment, suggests a new analysis that reveals meat-based, as well as keto and paleo diets, to be the worst on both measures.
The research was published online March 1 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
To obtain a real-world view on the environmental and health impact of diets as consumed by US adults, the team examined a nationally representative survey of the 1-day eating habits of more than 16,000 individuals.
This revealed that the best quality diet was pescatarian, followed by vegetarian and vegan diets. Omnivore diets, although less healthy, tended to score better than keto and paleo diets, which were the lowest ranked.
Both keto and paleo diets tend to be higher in animal foods and lower in plant foods than other popular diets, the researchers explain in their study, and they both “have been associated with negative effects on blood lipids, specifically increased LDL cholesterol, raising concern about the long-term health outcomes associated with these diets.”
Analysis of the environmental impact of the different eating patterns showed that the vegan diet had the lowest carbon footprint, followed by the vegetarian and pescatarian diets. The omnivore, paleo, and keto diets had a far higher carbon footprint, with that of the keto diet more than four times greater than that for a vegan diet.
“Climate change is arguably one of the most pressing problems of our time, and a lot of people are interested in moving to a plant-based diet,” said senior author Diego Rose, PhD, MPH, RD, in a press release.
“Based on our results, that would reduce your footprint and be generally healthy,” noted Rose, nutrition program director, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana.
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