Individuals who follow a plant-heavy and meat-light diet are almost 35% less at risk of dying early, new research has revealed.

Scientists from Harvard University have found that an eco-friendly diet can combat the development of lung disease, heart disease and cancer.

Consuming a high intake of fruit and vegetables can boost the immune system, according to the study.

First author Professor Walter Willett said: “Changing how we eat can help slow climate change, and fortunately what’s healthiest for the planet is also best for us.

“For every major cause of death we looked at, there was a lower risk in people with better adherence to the planetary health diet.”

Fruit and vegetables should account for half of the food consumed on an eco-friendly diet, alongside beans, nuts and lentils, nutritionists have suggested.

Those on an eco-friendly diet should only consume less than 50g a day each of sugar, eggs, meat and fish. For comparison, a normal quarter-pound beef burger weighs 78g.

During the study, the team of researchers analysed the health outcomes of more than 200,000 healthy adults.

A total of 54,536 deaths were recorded among the study group during a follow-up period of 34 years.

Roughly 14,000 of the deaths were caused by cancer and more than 13,000 were from cardiovascular diseases, the study has reported.

The participants who followed the eco-friendly diet the most closely were 33% less likely to die prematurely compared to those who followed the diet the least closely, according to the results.

In addition, those following the eco-friendly diet the most closely were 14% less at risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases and 10% less likely to die from cancer, the research has revealed.

They were also 47% less at risk of dying from respiratory diseases, the academics have said.

“The diet wasn’t just good for people, but the planet as well with adherence lowering the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by 29% compared to an average diet,” said the researchers.

According to prior studies, food production accounts for 25% of humanity’s total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the full study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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