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We are what we eat

Photo by Khamkhor on Unsplash

The plant-based food revolution sweeping much of the world is good news for people and planet, a growing body of research shows.

In a new study published this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which monitored participants body changes over a 10 year period, those who developed coronary heart disease (CHD) had higher levels of microbes called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) in the body. TMAO levels are increased when the gut digests animal products like red meat and are reduced in people who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet.

“The findings of the study provide further evidence for the role of TMAO as a predictive biomarker for heart disease and strengthens the case for TMAO as a potential intervention target in heart disease prevention,” said Paul A. Heidenreich, MD, MS, professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, in an accompanying editorial comment. “The results should encourage us to continue to advocate for a more widespread adoption of healthy eating patterns.”

It follows a study published late last year in the Journal of the American Heart Association, based on the data of 10,000 middle-aged Americans between 1987 and 2016, which revealed those who ate the most plant-based foods in their diets were at a 32% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease and were a 16% lower risk of suffering heart attacks, stroke and heart failure.

Another 2019 study, led by researchers at Tulane University, looking at the eating habits of 16,000 Americans, found those making more plant-based choices – and eating less red meat – also had a lower carbon footprint.

“People whose diets had a lower carbon footprint were eating less red meat and dairy — which contribute to a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions and are high in saturated fat — and consuming more healthful foods like poultry, whole grains and plant-based proteins,” explained lead author Diego Rose, a professor of nutrition and food security at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.”

The Tulane paper came hot on the heels of a widely publicised 2018 study by Oxford University researchers which said going vegan is the biggest action individuals can take to minimise their impact on the planet. It argued being vegan will have more impact ‘than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car’, cutting emissions caused by individuals by 73%.

Plant-based meat is vastly more efficient, avoiding the downsides of food waste and environmental degradation

Growing public awareness of the impact their food choices make is pushing demand for more plant-based products, one innovative companies are responding to. Writing for Innovators Magazine this month, Bruce Friedrich, co-founder of the Good Food Institute, points out that damaging levels of animal agriculture are still rising worldwide because ‘people want to eat meat’ but says ‘luckily, today there are companies making meat directly from plants’. Read Bruce’s article to learn more about the climate-friendly food options being pioneered by plant-based and cultivated meat innovators.

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Susan Robertson
Written By

Susan is the co-founder of Innovators Magazine and a consultant for OnePoint5 Media. Susan is also a member of the UNFCCC-led Resilience Frontiers Nexus group and a board member of the APOPO Foundation UK.

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