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Vegetarian Diets Pose Greater Threat to the Environment than Meat

Update Date: Dec 17, 2015 10:58 AM EST

A new US study claims that eating diet that is healthier and rich in fruits and vegetables can be harmful for the environment than combining it with meat consumption. Lettuce is "over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon", according to researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University who studied the impact per calorie of diverse food items in terms of emissions, water use and energy costs. The paper that is published in the Environment Systems and Decisions journal, goes against the recent calls for people to stop eating meat if they want to curb the effects climate change. However, researchers also did not refute the claim that people should be eating less meat, or the fact that livestock is one of the leading causes of global emissions, about 51%, as per some studies, reports Independent.

Michelle Tom, a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering, Fischbeck, and Chris Hendrickson, the Hamerschlag University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, analyzed the food supply chain to understand how environment is being affected by the obesity pandemic. Particularly, they studied how processing, growing and transporting food, selling these food items and their service, household storage and its use create a pressure on the resources such as use of energy, water and greenhouse gas emission, as reported by Science Daily.

For the purpose of study, funded by CMU's Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research and the sustainability-focused Colcom Foundation, researchers examined three scenarios in terms of energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions that surface from growth, processing and transportation of the food related to the process.

"There's a complex relationship between diet and the environment," said Michelle Tom, one of the team. "What is good for us health-wise isn't always what's best for the environment. That's important for public officials to know and for them to be cognisant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future," as per Science Alert.

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