Most Folks Are Consuming Too A lot Protein – And It Has Critical Penalties
Protein consumption will increase nitrogen air pollution in US waters.
In keeping with analysis from the College of California, Davis, balancing how a lot protein you eat with how a lot your physique requires might reduce nitrogen releases to aquatic programs within the U.S. by 12% and complete nitrogen losses to air and water by 4%.
The quantity of protein consumed within the US, from each plant and animal sources, is among the many highest worldwide. In keeping with a examine revealed within the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Atmosphere, regardless of inhabitants progress, estimated nitrogen excretion charges in 2055 for Individuals can be 27% decrease than they’re now in the event that they consumed protein on the really helpful ranges.
This analysis is the primary to quantify the contribution of protein consumption to extra nitrogen within the setting by human waste. Moreover, it exhibits that coastal cities have probably the most potential to decrease nitrogen excretions which might be headed towards their watersheds.
“It seems that many people don’t want as a lot protein as we eat, and that has repercussions for our well being and aquatic ecosystems,” mentioned lead creator Maya Almaraz, a analysis affiliate with the UC Davis Institute of the Atmosphere. “If we might scale back that to an quantity acceptable to our well being, we might higher shield our environmental sources.”
The human physique requires protein. However when a physique takes in additional protein than it wants, extra amino acids break it down into nitrogen, which is excreted mostly through urine and released through the wastewater system. This brings additional nitrogen into waterways, which can result in toxic algal blooms, oxygen-starved “dead zones” and polluted drinking water.
Based on population data from the U.S. Census, the scientists predicted present and future nitrogen excretion exports. They observed an increased pattern over time, with exports rising 20% between 2016 and 2055. This rise is attributed to both population expansion and an aging population, which needs more protein to minimize muscle loss.
Coastal cities have the most potential
The population of coastal cities is expected to increase significantly over the next few decades, and migration patterns from the suburbs suggest that this growth will typically be accompanied by an increase in the number of nutrients being carried by wastewater, stormwater runoff, and other sources.
According to the research, there is a significant possibility to reduce dietary nitrogen loading to watersheds in coastal cities along the West Coast, Texas, Florida, Chicago, and especially the northeastern United States.
Balance your diet
Sewage contributes 15% of the total nitrogen flux from land to the ocean in North America, the study said. Technology capable of removing 90% of the nitrogen in sewage exists, but less than 1% of sewage is treated with it due to its expense. Eating a diet that balances protein with the body’s needs can be healthier for humans and reduce nitrogen pollution in the environment without additional wastewater treatment costs.
“It’s interesting to think about possible ways to cut into those nitrogen losses beyond expensive technology,” said Almaraz. “Dietary changes are a healthy and cheap way to do it.”
Reference: “The impact of excessive protein consumption on human wastewater nitrogen loading of US waters” by Maya Almaraz, Caitlin D Kuempel, Andrew M Salter and Benjamin S Halpern, 21 June 2022, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
The study was funded by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund.