Researchers from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food reveal how eating an animal-free diet world could have monumental effects on human health and the environment.

A landmark study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that a plant-based diet would prevent more than eight million deaths, reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent, and help save up to $1 trillion annually in health care costs. The staggering findings came as a result of the first-ever study to estimate both the health and climate impacts of a vegan diet, the Oxford University researchers said.

The study modeled the effects of four different diets in the year 2050: a control, no-change scenario; one that follows global guidelines on healthy eating; a scenario based on vegetarian diets; and one based on vegan diets. The results routinely found the vegan diet scenario to be more beneficial to human health and that of the planet. Following global guidelines could save 5.1 million lives by midcentury, but three million additional deaths could be prevented by going vegan. The same guideline-driven diet would reduce food-related emissions by 29 percent, but would more than double to 70 percent if one adhered to a vegan diet.

The study also identified the most effective food-related actions to be taken depending on the region: lowering red meat consumption would benefit East Asia, the West, and Latin America, while increasing fruit and vegetable intake would be the best way to save lives in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. “We do not expect everybody to become vegan,” lead author Marco Springmann said. “But climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large step in the right direction.”