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Small Dietary Changes Cut Water Use, Can Improve Health

WEDNESDAY, April 5, 2017 -- Modest changes in diet can address the projected reduction in the availability of freshwater for irrigation in India, and can improve diet-linked health outcomes, according to a study published in the April issue of The Lancet Planetary Health.

James Milner, Ph.D., from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and colleagues optimized typical dietary patterns in an Indian population sample to meet projected decreases in the availability of water per person for irrigation (blue water footprint) due to population growth. The optimized diets met nutritional guidelines, with minimal deviation from existing patterns.

The researchers found that the optimized diets had up to 30 percent lower blue water footprints and included lower amounts of wheat, dairy, and poultry, and increased legumes. Adoption of these diets would result in 6,800 life-years gained per 100,000 total population, on average, over 40 years in the 2050 scenario. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions accompanied the dietary changes. There was variation in the magnitude of health and environmental effects between dietary patterns.

"Modest changes in diets could help to address projected reductions in the availability of freshwater for irrigation in India," the authors write. "These dietary changes could also simultaneously reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions and improve diet-related health outcomes."

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Posted: April 2017