Replacing red meat with herring/sardines may save 750,000 lives annually by 2050

Credit: Unsplash+.

Imagine if we made a simple change to our diets, like replacing red meat with small fish you might have heard of: herring, sardines, and anchovies.

This small shift could save up to 750,000 lives every year by 2050 and significantly lower the number of people suffering from diseases related to their diet.

This change could be especially impactful in countries where money is tight, and these small fish are both affordable and easy to find.

In these places, heart disease takes a heavy toll, and finding affordable, healthy food options is crucial.

Why is red meat a problem?

Well, eating too much red or processed meat has been linked to serious health issues like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and bowel cancer. These diseases are a big deal, making up about 70% of all deaths worldwide in 2019.

On the other hand, these small fish we’re talking about are not just good for your heart because they’re full of omega-3 fats, but they’re also packed with calcium and vitamin B12. Plus, they’re kind to the planet, having the lowest carbon footprint of any animal food source.

But here’s the catch: right now, most of these small fish are not ending up on our plates. Instead, they’re turned into fishmeal and oil, mostly for feeding farmed fish, which then often end up on the tables of wealthier folks.

The researchers looked at what could happen if these fish were used differently. They imagined four different ways these fish could be shared around the world, focusing on eating them directly rather than using them as feed.

They used data to guess how much red meat people will eat in 2050 and looked at how much of these small fish we’re catching right now.

Their findings? If people started eating these fish instead of red meat, we could see a huge drop in deaths from diet-related diseases, especially heart disease.

We’re talking about preventing half a million to 750,000 deaths in 2050 and cutting down on years lived with disabilities by millions, particularly in poorer countries.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough of these fish to replace all the red meat we eat, but even a little change could make a big difference. It could help most countries get closer to the recommended fish intake and reduce deaths from some major diseases by 2% in 2050.

Of the different ways to share these fish around, the best results came from making sure countries where people don’t eat much fish get more of it.

However, this doesn’t solve the problem for countries far from the ocean, where getting seafood is harder. These places would need more global trade and marketing of these fish.

There are some big hurdles, though. Things like overfishing, climate change, and making sure people actually want to eat these fish can get in the way of making this change happen.

But with coordinated policies that make these fish affordable, promoting the use of fish-friendly feeds like microalgae, and helping people understand why this diet change is good for both them and the planet, we could overcome these challenges.

Educating people about the health benefits of these fish, finding community support for diet changes, and even putting climate change labels on food could all help make the shift from red meat to small fish a reality.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and Omega-3 supplements could improve memory functions in older people.

The research findings can be found in BMJ Global Health.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.