HOW PLANT PROTEINS ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

Noah Bubman
5 min readMay 17, 2020

New research on global consumption patterns and the changing human diet gives us valuable insights on the critical importance of shifting our focus to a more sustainable plant based diet regimen. This article will present an overview of the problems associated with the current trend towards predominantly, more meat consumption, and the alternatives, which include an emphasis on a plant-based diet, encouraging whole food, plant-based sources.

In a recent article in ‘Nature’, in 2014, written by David Tilman and Michael Clark, (doi:10.1038/nature13959), they draw upon meta global trends to elucidate the link between diet and human health, and our diet and the health of the planet. They call this link between diet and human health “one of the greatest challenges facing humanity”. In their comprehensive study of more than 10 million collective human life years, they analyzed global trends within 50–100 of the worlds’ most populous nations, so they can forecast the effects on the planet, should these trends continue. They conclude that, as traditional diets are replaced with more meat and animal products, there will be a major effect on both global health and our environment. They base much of their conclusion on the fact that as annual incomes increased from 1961 to 2009, there was a direct increase in per capita daily demand for meat protein. Nature p.519. By better understanding these trends, we can better see the inherent value in a plant based diet and begin to make those changes for our families, communities and the environment.

Environmental Impact

Rising greenhouse gas emissions are posing a serious problem, which many believe is a contributing factor to global warming. It is estimated that food production globally is responsible for 25% of the total green house gas emissions. Plant based foods have a much lower emission rate when compared to animal products and livestock. In Tilman’s article, they found the difference in carbon emissions from meat can be as high as 250 times that of legumes.(Nature p.518). Adopting Mediterranean, vegetarian and/or pescatarian diets could have a per capita reduction in green house gas emission of up 30%, 45% and 55% respectively. Nature p.520. With the increase in the global population expected to hit 9 billion by the year 2050, and the projected increases of emissions from our dietary habits and meat centric trends, the result is a massive increase in overall emissions, estimated at a net increase of 80%. In contrast, successfully adopting alternative plant based diets would result in no net emission increase by 2050, effectively reversing the course of degradation.

Feed a growing global population

It is estimated that in the next 35 years, the human population on Earth will increase by 2 billion people, for a total of over 9 billion. If close to a billion people suffer from chronic hunger currently, and the increased consumption rates requires more land, more energy and more water, how do we expect to feed the world population in the future? We need to look closely at the value in shifting our focus to more plant based nutrition and reducing our emphasis on meat and dairy consumption. It is estimated that 70% of US grain production goes towards feeding our cattle and livestock. Imagine if we shifted the end focus of our agricultural landscape towards feeding more people, rather than more animals, which we can eat. This support of the bottom of the food chain requires less water, land and resources, and the result is a much greater output of food which can be used towards feeding the growing global population.

Benefit people’s health and boost human lifespans

As the global shift towards a more ‘animal centric’ diet is occurring, we are able to see a detrimental effect on people’s health, with an increase of diabetes, cancer, and overall mortality. It is estimate that the 2 billion people who are obese and overweight can blame a diet lacking in proper amounts of nutrients, contain too much sugar and processed foods and unhealthy fats.

The study in Nature, evaluated the health benefits of three alternative diets: Meditteranean, Pescatariana and vegetarian. Relative to conventional omnivorous diets, across the three alternative diets incidence rates of type II diabetes were reduced by 16%-41% and of cancer by 7%-13%, while relative mortality rates from coronary heart disease were 20%-26% lower and overall mortality rates for all causes combined were 0%-18% lower. Nature p.520.

New developments

Adopting a plant-based diet is a lifestyle choice, which varies in degree from person to person. In general, the benefits to the individual, the environment and the planet are incredibly convincing. We’ve begun to see a greater understanding of the benefits of plant based eating and products which support the trend. Some companies such as Beyond Meat, have begun full scale production of ‘plant based burgers which look and taste like hamburgers’. This company has received the support of investors like Bill Gates and have already begun selling their product in Whole Foods markets across the country. With continued effort and innovation, we can allow Plant Proteins to change the world and our futures.

Benefit people’s health and boost human lifespans

As the global shift towards a more ‘animal centric’ diet is occurring, we are able to see a detrimental effect on people’s health, with an increase of diabetes, cancer, and overall mortality. It is estimate that the 2 billion people who are obese and overweight can blame a diet lacking in proper amounts of nutrients, contain too much sugar and processed foods and unhealthy fats.

The study in Nature, evaluated the health benefits of three alternative diets: Meditteranean, Pescatariana and vegetarian. Relative to conventional omnivorous diets, across the three alternative diets incidence rates of type II diabetes were reduced by 16%-41% and of cancer by 7%-13%, while relative mortality rates from coronary heart disease were 20%-26% lower and overall mortality rates for all causes combined were 0%-18% lower. Nature p.520.

New developments

Adopting a plant-based diet is a lifestyle choice, which varies in degree from person to person. In general, the benefits to the individual, the environment and the planet are incredibly convincing. We’ve begun to see a greater understanding of the benefits of plant based eating and products which support the trend. Some companies such as Beyond Meat, have begun full scale production of ‘plant based burgers which look and taste like hamburgers’. This company has received the support of investors like Bill Gates and have already begun selling their product in Whole Foods markets across the country. With continued effort and innovation, we can allow Plant Proteins to change the world and our futures.

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Noah Bubman

Entrepreneur, business professional, writer, nutrition minded, innovator, sustainably focused, Californian, and a believer that ideas are best when shared.