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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Dec 19;114(51):13412-13417. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1711889114. Epub 2017 Dec 4.

Evaluating the environmental impacts of dietary recommendations.

Author information

1
Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, Einsteinweg 2, 2333 CC, Leiden, The Netherlands; p.a.behrens@luc.leidenuniv.nl.
2
Leiden University College The Hague, 2595 DG, The Hague, The Netherlands.
3
Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, 3015 CE, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
4
Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus Medical Center, 3015 CE, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
5
Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, Einsteinweg 2, 2333 CC, Leiden, The Netherlands.
6
The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, 2595 DA Den Haag, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Dietary choices drive both health and environmental outcomes. Information on diets come from many sources, with nationally recommended diets (NRDs) by governmental or similar advisory bodies the most authoritative. Little or no attention is placed on the environmental impacts within NRDs. Here we quantify the impact of nation-specific NRDs, compared with an average diet in 37 nations, representing 64% of global population. We focus on greenhouse gases (GHGs), eutrophication, and land use because these have impacts reaching or exceeding planetary boundaries. We show that compared with average diets, NRDs in high-income nations are associated with reductions in GHG, eutrophication, and land use from 13.0 to 24.8%, 9.8 to 21.3%, and 5.7 to 17.6%, respectively. In upper-middle-income nations, NRDs are associated with slight decrease in impacts of 0.8-12.2%, 7.7-19.4%, and 7.2-18.6%. In poorer middle-income nations, impacts increase by 12.4-17.0%, 24.5-31.9%, and 8.8-14.8%. The reduced environmental impact in high-income countries is driven by reductions in calories (∼54% of effect) and a change in composition (∼46%). The increased environmental impacts of NRDs in low- and middle-income nations are associated with increased intake in animal products. Uniform adoption of NRDs across these nations would result in reductions of 0.19-0.53 Gt CO2 eq⋅a-1, 4.32-10.6 Gt [Formula: see text] eq⋅a-1, and 1.5-2.8 million km2, while providing the health cobenefits of adopting an NRD. As a small number of dietary guidelines are beginning to incorporate more general environmental concerns, we anticipate that this work will provide a standardized baseline for future work to optimize recommended diets further.

KEYWORDS:

MRIO; dietary change; environmental impacts; sustainable diets

PMID:
29203655
PMCID:
PMC5754780
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1711889114
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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