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Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):632-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.038729. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Sustainable diets for the future: Can we contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eating a healthy diet?

Author information

1
Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK. j.macdiarmid@abdn.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Food systems account for 18-20% of UK annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs). Recommendations for improving food choices to reduce GHGEs must be balanced against dietary requirements for health.

OBJECTIVE:

We assessed whether a reduction in GHGEs can be achieved while meeting dietary requirements for health.

DESIGN:

A database was created that linked nutrient composition and GHGE data for 82 food groups. Linear programming was used iteratively to produce a diet that met the dietary requirements of an adult woman (19-50 y old) while minimizing GHGEs. Acceptability constraints were added to the model to include foods commonly consumed in the United Kingdom in sensible quantities. A sample menu was created to ensure that the quantities and types of food generated from the model could be combined into a realistic 7-d diet. Reductions in GHGEs of the diets were set against 1990 emission values.

RESULTS:

The first model, without any acceptability constraints, produced a 90% reduction in GHGEs but included only 7 food items, all in unrealistic quantities. The addition of acceptability constraints gave a more realistic diet with 52 foods but reduced GHGEs by a lesser amount of 36%. This diet included meat products but in smaller amounts than in the current diet. The retail cost of the diet was comparable to the average UK expenditure on food.

CONCLUSION:

A sustainable diet that meets dietary requirements for health with lower GHGEs can be achieved without eliminating meat or dairy products or increasing the cost to the consumer.

PMID:
22854399
DOI:
10.3945/ajcn.112.038729
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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