Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat, dairy consumption

Greenhouse gas emissions from food production may threaten the UN climate target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, according to research at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.On Monday 31 March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presents their report on the impacts of climate change.Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy and transportation sectors currently account for the largest share of climate pollution. However, a study from Chalmers now shows that eliminating these emissions would not guarantee staying below the UN limit. Emissions from agriculture threaten to keep increasing as global meat and dairy consumption increases. If agricultural emissions are not addressed, nitrous oxide from fields and methane from livestock may double by 2070. This alone would make meeting the climate target essentially impossible.”We have shown that reducing meat and dairy consumption is key to bringing agricultural climate pollution down to safe levels,” says Fredrik Hedenus, one of the study authors. “Broad dietary change can take a long time. We should already be thinking about how we can make our food more climate friendly.”By 2070, there will be many more of us on this planet. Diets high in meat, milk, cheese, and other food associated with high emissions are expected to become more common. Because agricultural emissions are difficult and expensive to reduce via changes in production methods or technology, these growing numbers of people, eating more meat and dairy, entail increasing amounts of climate pollution from the food sector.”These emissions can be reduced with efficiency gains in meat and dairy production, as well as with the aid of new technology,” says co-author Stefan Wirsenius. “But the potential reductions from these measures are fairly limited and will probably not suffice to keep us within the climate limit, if meat and dairy consumption continue to grow.”Beef and lamb account for the largest agricultural emissions, relative to the energy they provide. …

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An altered gut microbiota can predict diabetes

June 3, 2013 — Intestinal bacteria may have a greater influence on us than was previously thought. In a study published in the journal Nature on 29 May, researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, show that patients with type 2 diabetes have an altered gut microbiota. Their findings have led to a new model to identify patients at increased risk of developing diabetes.The human body contains ten times more bacteria than human cells. Most of these bacteria comprise the normal gut microbiota. Our bodies thus contain a vast number of bacterial genes in addition to the genes in our own cells, and are collectively known as the metagenome.Three Swedish, Gothenburg-based research groups led by Fredrik Bäckhed and Björn Fagergberg, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, and Jens Nielsen of Chalmers University of Technology compared the metagenome of 145 women with diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance and healthy controls, and showed that women with type 2 diabetes have an altered gut microbiota.Furthermore, healthy women have higher numbers of gut bacteria known to be producers of butyrate, a fatty acid that has previously been linked to beneficial health effect.On the basis of these findings, the researchers developed a new model that can distinguish between patients with type 2 diabetes and healthy women by analysis of the metagenome. This model has better predictive value than the classical predictive markers used today, such as body-mass index and waist-hip ratio.”By examining the patient’s gut microbiota, we could predict which patients are at risk of developing diabetes. The big challenge is to find out whether the composition of the gut microbiota promotes the onset of age-related diabetes. If this is the case, this would indicate new opportunities to prevent the disease,” says Professor Fredrik Bäckhed.”In this study, we have developed new methods to analyze the metagenomic data and have been able to exploit much more of the ‘unknown’ metagenome, that is, the bacteria that have not been previously mapped,” continues Jens Nielsen, Professor of Systems Biology at Chalmers University of Technology. “The study is an excellent example of how novel technologies, developed in connection with Chalmers’ initiative in life science, can assist in analyzing large amounts of data from the clinic.”The study Gut metagenome in European women with normal, impaired and diabetic glucose control was published in Nature on May 29.

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