The NHS could save as much as £6.7bn per year through reduction in incidence of serious disease such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease as a result of a 100% switch to plant-based diets.
This is according to a new study by the Office of Health Economics*, which also reports that every one million people who switch to a vegan diet would generate an estimated £121m of healthcare cost savings, with 2.1 million fewer cases of disease and a gain of more than 170,000 quality-adjusted life years across England.
In ‘The impact of higher uptake of plant-based diets in England’, authors Nadine Henderson and Chris Sampson use an economic model-based analysis to combine estimates for the prevalence of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, diverticular disease and obesity. They also model different levels of uptake in the population.
The uptake of vegan diets has increased dramatically in recent years, with people making the switch for a variety of reasons. In October 2023, the World Animal Foundation reported that there are almost 88 million vegans in the world, and 1.21% of the UK population is now vegan. Whilst previous research suggests that plant-based diets may improve health outcomes relating to diseases, there has to-date been little research into the monetary value this could present to health services.
This new analysis starts to address the research gap and quantify the potential benefits to the NHS of a higher update of a vegan diet, and the reported potential savings are staggering.
Dr Chris Sampson says: “There is now compelling evidence that plant-based diets can benefit people’s health. Our analysis takes a significant step towards understanding how dietary choices impact population health and NHS expenditure overall.’
Head of Campaigns, Policy and Research for the Vegan Society, Claire Ogley adds: “As the report illustrates, wider uptake of plant-based diets could free up billions of pounds of funding to invest back into England’s hospitals and services. Policymakers should consider supporting and encouraging plant-based diets as part of public health campaigns to realise these benefits to the health service in the UK.”
The report has yet to be peer-reviewed.
* Analysis funded by The Vegan Society