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Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 21;7(1):6105. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-06466-8.

Environmental impact of omnivorous, ovo-lacto-vegetarian, and vegan diet.

Author information

1
Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Food and Drug, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.
2
Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Food and Drug, University of Parma, Parma, Italy. nicoletta.pellegrini@unipr.it.
3
Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
4
Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Science, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.
5
Faculty of Science and Technology, Libera Università di Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy.
6
Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, Parma, Italy.
7
MRC Human Nutrition Research, Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Cambridge, CB1 9NL, United Kingdom.
8
The Need for Nutrition Education/Innovation Programme (University of Cambridge) C/O MRC Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Cambridge, CB1 9NL, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Food and beverage consumption has a great impact on the environment, although there is a lack of information concerning the whole diet. The environmental impact of 153 Italian adults (51 omnivores, 51 ovo-lacto-vegetarians, 51 vegans) and the inter-individual variability within dietary groups were assessed in a real-life context. Food intake was monitored with a 7-d dietary record to calculate nutritional values and environmental impacts (carbon, water, and ecological footprints). The Italian Mediterranean Index was used to evaluate the nutritional quality of each diet. The omnivorous choice generated worse carbon, water and ecological footprints than other diets. No differences were found for the environmental impacts of ovo-lacto-vegetarians and vegans, which also had diets more adherent to the Mediterranean pattern. A high inter-individual variability was observed through principal component analysis, showing that some vegetarians and vegans have higher environmental impacts than those of some omnivores. Thus, regardless of the environmental benefits of plant-based diets, there is a need for thinking in terms of individual dietary habits. To our knowledge, this is the first time environmental impacts of three dietary regimens are evaluated using individual recorded dietary intakes rather than hypothetical diet or diets averaged over a population.

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