GERMANY, Bonn. The advantages of a meat-poor nutrition pointed out now scientists in a study. However, this does not apply to every aspect.
As the University of Bonn in a reference to this study, a moderate meat consumption as recommended by the German Nutrition Society (DGE), the so-called Mediterranean diet and a vegan diet were compared with the current diet of people in North Rhine-Westphalia. According to Juliana Paris of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn, who conducted the study, in each of the three scenarios the foods were chosen to differ as little as possible from the reference diet. "This means, for example, that in the Mediterranean variant we increased the proportion of fish and seafood, vegetables and grain products," Paris explained.
In addition, she said, the overall product selection included the same nutrients in similar amounts as before. According to the ZEF scientist, any of the three diets would be beneficial from a One Health perspective, i.e., optimal human, animal and environmental health; however, the answers are not clear-cut. The vegan diet scored highest in many areas; however, the production of vegan food involves increased water consumption. In addition, vegans must take certain nutrients separately, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D and even calcium, according to Paris.
The nonetheless healthy Mediterranean diet, in turn, also results in an increased water requirement due to the high proportion of nuts and vegetables. Moreover, if - as assumed in the study - the meat consumed is completely replaced by fish, its effects on animal welfare are "surprisingly negative." Since fish and seafood are significantly smaller than cows or pigs, for example, considerably more animals suffer from this type of diet, Paris explained. Increased consumption of honey also has a negative impact, according to the study, because it requires intensive management of bee colonies.
"So it would be beneficial to meet less of the protein requirement overall from animal sources," said Dr. Neus Escobar of the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, who supervised the work. According to her, many people today eat diets that are far too rich. If they reduced the amount of food they eat to what they really need, this would have additional positive effects. According to the study, the DGE recommendations are a step in the right direction.
However, in terms of human health, the other two options are better, it said. Still, the data showed that those who gave up meat more often and chose whole grains, vegetables and fruits instead were doing something good for themselves as well as animals and the environment.