Harvard Study Finds Ditching Meat Could Save 200K Lives

New research presented at the United to Cure Fourth International Vatican Conference shows that one-third of early deaths could be prevented with a dietary shift toward plant-based food.

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Walter Willett, MD—a professor at Harvard Medical School—presented new research at the recent United to Cure Fourth International Vatican Conference that found approximately one-third of early deaths (or approximately 200,000 individual lives) could be prevented by shifting to a meat-free diet. “We have just been doing some calculations looking at the question of how much could we reduce mortality shifting towards a healthy, more plant based diet, not necessarily totally vegan, and our estimates are about one-third of deaths could be prevented,” Willett said. The professor explained that his calculations did not control for smoking-related deaths nor did they focus on early death caused by cancer and specifically pointed to the benefits of removing meat from an individual’s dietary habits. “When we start to look at it, we see that healthy diet is related to a lower risk of almost everything that we look at,” Willett said. “Perhaps not too surprising because everything in the body is connected by the same underlying processes.” Willett’s presentation adds to research that links meat consumption to early death, including a study published in BMJ last year that found that eating meat increased death rates from nine ailments, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.