If the Swedish population switched 50% of all red meat and charcuterie to vegetables and  legumes we could we could gain 540 000 life years over a period of 20 years. That is equal to half a million people living one year longer than they otherwise would have. After 30 years we would have gained 1 200 000 life years. And men stand to benefit more since they eat more red meat than women do.

These are the results from a new study by Liselotte Schäfer Elinder and Emma Patterson, both researchers at Karolinska Instutet in Stockholm. They studied three simple substitutions to more climate friendly food, which also benefit health, expressed as fewer premature deaths from cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and/or colon cancer.

The following substitutions were studied:

  1. Switching red meat to meat with lower climate impact, legumes or vegetables
  2. Switching milk to alternative plant based products
  3. Switching sugar-sweetened beverages to water

– Switching your food to more climate friendly options can lead to improved health, says Liselotte Schäfer Elinder.

Freja Handler

Read the study Potential health impact of increasing adoption of sustainable dietary practices in Sweden here.

Watch Emma Patterson explain the results in a short film here:


Watch Liselotte Schäfer Elinder in recorded lecture for UR (Swedish Educational TV) about the results here:

Liselotte Schäfer Elinder
Adjunct Professor, Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm
+46 8 123 37191

Emma Patterson
Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Public Health Nutrition, Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm