The green Mediterranean diet may protect health and the environment

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The so-called green Mediterranean diet may benefit human health and the planet’s health. Vera Lair/Stocksy

People who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But new research suggests that a “green” Mediterranean diet — which avoids all meat and provides extra greens — may be even better for human health. If the diet catches on, the benefits for planetary health could be equally impressive.

Climate scientists believe that one of the most impactful things that people can do for the environment is to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products.

Research notes that global production of animal-based foods — including livestock feed — accounts for 57% of total greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, whereas production of plant-based foods accounts for only 29%.

Another study estimates that if everyone became vegan, this would reduce the amount of land worldwide that farmers need to grow food by 3.1 billion hectares or 76%.

In addition to cutting emissions from food production, say the authors, rewilding the freed-up land would remove around 8.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year for the next 100 years.

Of course, the idea that billions of people worldwide would voluntarily give up their steaks, sausages, and cheeseburgers simply to curb climate change may seem far-fetched.

But perhaps they would think twice if they knew how much it would benefit their own health.

Recent research suggests that people who eat little or no meat tend to have a lower risk of cancer, in particular colorectal cancer and prostate cancer in men.

Diets that combine a reduction in meat and dairy consumption with increased intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, bring further health benefits.

People who eat a typical Mediterranean diet, for example, have a lower overall mortality rate and a lower risk not only of cancer but also cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

A series of clinical trials now suggests that eating a “green” Mediterranean diet, or green Med diet, may provide additional benefits on top of those provided by the regular Mediterranean diet.

The diet, which adds extra plant foods rich in polyphenols and aims to avoid meat completely, is also better for the planet.

“[E]liminating meat intake — beef, pork, lamb — is by far the most important single way to reduce the carbon footprint from diet,” said Dr. Meir

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WHO and partners call for action to better protect health and care workers from COVID-19

The World Health Organization and partners[i] have issued an urgent call for concrete action to better protect health and care workers worldwide from COVID-19 and other health issues. 

The organizations are concerned that large numbers of health and care workers have died from COVID-19, but also that an increasing proportion of the workforce are suffering from burnout, stress, anxiety and fatigue.

In a Joint Statement issued this week, WHO and partners are calling
on all Member State governments and stakeholders to strengthen the monitoring and reporting of COVID-19 infections, ill-health and deaths among health and care workers. They should also include disaggregation by age, gender and occupation as a standard
procedure, to enable decision makers and scientists to identify and implement mitigation measures that will further reduce the risk of infections and ill-health.

The Statement also urges political leaders and policy makers to do all within their power to make regulatory, policy and investment decisions that ensure the protection of health and care workers. It highlights the opportunity to align this with a forthcoming
global health and care worker compact and the International Labour Organization’s call for a human-centered recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Finally, the partners call upon leaders and policy makers to ensure equitable access to vaccines so that health and care workers are prioritized in the uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations. Available data from 119 countries suggest that by September 2021,
2 in 5 health and care workers were fully vaccinated on average, with considerable difference across regions and economic groupings. Less than 1 in 10 have been fully vaccinated in the African region while 22 mostly high-income
countries reported that above 80% of their health and care workers are fully vaccinated. These rates only account for data reported to WHO through the standard mechanisms.

We have a moral obligation to protect all health and care workers, ensure their rights and provide them with decent work in a safe and enabling practice environment. This must include access to vaccines”, said Jim Campbell, Director
of the WHO Health Workforce Department. “Beyond vaccines , economic recovery  and all new investments in emergency preparedness and response must prioritize  the education and employment of health and care workers, linking to the UN  Secretary-General’s
Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection,” he added.

A new WHO working paper estimates
that between 80 000 to 180 000 health

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