Health and Plant-Based Nutrition: The Impact of the Health System on Society

Health and Plant-Based Nutrition: The Impact of the Health System on Society

2 May 2024

Increasing awareness of the health benefits of plant-based nutrition

It has become clear that our society is increasingly oriented towards sustainable and healthy choices. The adoption of vegan diets has also increased significantly in recent years, primarily driven by a growing awareness of its health, environmental, and animal welfare benefits. Plant-based diets, rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, offer a nutritious alternative that does not include the saturated fats and cholesterol found in meat, milk, and eggs.

The relationship between health and a plant-based diets has consequently attracted increasing interest in the scientific community, and studies continue to prove the numerous health benefits associated with this dietary approach.

In particular, several studies have shown that plant-based diets can help reduce the risk of heart disease, as a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed an association between a vegetarian diet and reduced blood pressure. This is because such diets are often naturally rich in fibre, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, which promote heart health.

In addition, a plant-based diet can be helpful for controlling body weight, due to the higher presence of whole foods, fruit, vegetables and pulses, which are rich in fibre and lower in calories and cholesterol than foods of animal origin (Plant-Based Diet as a Strategy for Weight Control, 2021).

Finally, plant-based diets are often associated with better overall health and longevity, as emphasised by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which highlighted the health benefits of vegetarian diets.

The British Case Study: Office Health of Economics Data on the Health System

In this context, a new study has emerged which confirms the benefits of plant-based diets, and also quantifies their economic impact, particularly on the English National Health Service (NHS). According to a recent analysis by the Office of Health Economics, a collective shift towards an entirely plant-based diet could result in savings of around £6.7 billion per year for the NHS.

Let us go into the details of the study, analysing its main results.

The analysis, funded by the Vegan Society, sheds light on potential savings for the NHS and a reduction in disease if the entire British population adopted a plant-based diet.

The estimated annual savings amount to £6.7 billion, alongside a reduction of 2.1 million disease cases and an increase of over 170,000 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) across the population.

Nadine Henderson and Chris Sampson led the research, which indicates a decrease in relative risk for various diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity linked to the vegan diet. The study suggests that for every million individuals adopting a vegan diet, healthcare costs could potentially save an estimated £121 million.

Results such as these underline the importance of dietary choices for individual health, and their significant impact on public health and health system finances. The potential savings would cover the annual budgets of around seven British hospitals, or the annual salaries of nearly 65,000 consultants or 185,000 nurses. Claire Ogley, head of campaigns, policy, and research for the Vegan Society, pointed out that the data is encouraging and suggests that plant-based diets bring collective benefits on a wider scale.

A Glimpse into the Future

The conclusions of this study therefore provide a solid basis for public policy makers to consider interventions that support healthy dietary changes, thereby contributing to the overall health of the population. The recommendation, in short, is clear: encouraging and supporting plant-based diets can be an effective strategy not only to improve individual health, but also to significantly reduce healthcare costs.

Recognizing the crucial significance of reducing animal foods in diets, Atlante has implemented a  policy aimed at sourcing meat and eggs more ethically. This carefully crafted document reflects our deep and genuine commitment to a sustainable and ethical lifestyle.