REFERENCES: CONNECTIONS BETWEEN SUSTAINABLE DIETS/FOOD SYSTEMS, CLIMATE CHANGE, ENV’T & HUMAN HEALTH

🍎 Research about "sustainable diets" and connecting our food and agriculture system to climate change and environmental degradation and human health.

There is likely to be a crossover between the research below and other areas that lay out references around regenerative/organic/agroecological systems. Be sure to check the section on Animal Agriculture as well.  You’ll also find some studies below about the relationship between soil health and human health and the importance of biodiversity.

The articles below with the *** are the ones I’m most recommending due to their content and their more recent published date

Please note: These articles have been update through January, 2024

  • Antonelli M, et al.  Europe and food: Ensuring environmental, health and social benefits for the global transition. Barilla Foundation; 2021:1-140.
  • Bastian GE, Buro D, Palmer-Keenan DM. Recommendations for Integrating Evidence-Based, Sustainable Diet Information into Nutrition Education. Nutrients. 2021; 13(11):4170.***
    • There are five well-supported recommendations nutrition educators should consider incorporating in their work. They are (1) shift towards a plant-based diet, (2) mitigate food waste, (3) limit consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPF), (4) engage in local food systems, and (5) choose sustainable seafood.
  • Behrens P, Kiefte-de Jong JC, Bosker T, Rodrigues JFD, de Koning A, Tukker A. Evaluating the environmental impacts of dietary recommendationsProc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017;114(51):13412-13417. doi:10.1073/pnas.1711889114.
    • Dietary choices drive both health and environmental outcomes. Information on diets comes from many sources, with nationally recommended diets (NRDs) by governmental or similar advisory bodies as the most authoritative. Little or no attention is placed on the environmental impacts of NRDs.
    • Food systems place large and increasing burdens on the environment (1). It is estimated that food production accounts for 19–29% of global greenhouse gas emissions (80–86% of which are in agriculture) (2), drives eutrophication (3), and occupies ∼33% of the ice-free land globally (4). Furthermore, agricultural development threatens biodiversity (5) and can increase soil degradation (6). 
  • Berry EM. Sustainable Food Systems and the Mediterranean Diet. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2229. Published 2019 Sep 16. doi:10.3390/nu11092229.
    •  All environmental analyses agree on the need to promote more plant-based diets—achieved practically by using “more forks than knives”.
    • The Mediterranean Diet pattern is a case study of a sustainable diet. It has the best scientific evidence for being healthy, together with economic and socio-cultural benefits.
  • *** Biesbroek S, Kok FJ, Tufford AR, et al. Toward healthy and sustainable diets for the 21st century: Importance of sociocultural and economic considerations. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023;120(26):e2219272120. doi:10.1073/pnas.2219272120
    • This paper aims to discuss perspectives and future directions for achieving healthy and sustainable diets within the sociocultural and geographical subtypes of the food system. Emphasis is on the wider sociocultural and economic systemic drivers influencing food choices, food environments, health, and the environment.
  • Burlingame B, Dernimi S (editors). Sustainable Diets: Linking Nutrition and Food Systems: Chapter 5: Biodiversity Loss: We Need to Move from Uniformity to Diversity
    • Today’s food and farming systems have succeeded in supplying large volumes of foods to global markets but are generating negative outcomes on multiple fronts: wide-spread degradation of land, water and ecosystems; high greenhouse gas emissions; biodiversity losses; persistent hunger and micronutrient deficiencies, and the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related diseases;
    • Upstream of agriculture, major contributions are made by the fossil fuel-intensive production of chemical fertilizer and pesticides (Gilbert, 2012). Downstream, emissions arise from food processing and retail sectors that rely increasingly on abundant synthetic packaging and soaring ‘food miles’ in order to deliver the highly processed and unseasonal products to which consumers have become accustomed (Schnell, 2013).  Meanwhile, 70% of all water withdrawn from aquifers, streams and lakes is used for agriculture – often at unsustainable rates (FAO, 2013).
    • The agricultural sector is responsible for nitrate, phosphorus, pesticide, soil sediment and pathogen pollution in soil and water (Parris, 2011). Furthermore, agricultural systems have contributed significantly to land degradation as well as to the destruction of natural habitats and losses of wild biodiversity around the world (Scherrand McNeely, 2012).The global decline in insect pollinators – driven in large part by the use of pesticides in agriculture (van Lexmond et al., 2015) – now threatens the very basis of agriculture and its future crop yields.
    • Agricultural diversity has been linked specifically to increased consumption of a range of key  nutritional elements often missing in diets based around staple cereal crops. Polycultures and mixed crop–livestock farming systems help to ensure that key nutrients are available throughout the year (Remans et al., 2011; Jones et al., 2014), and improved health outcomes have been  observed in relation to diversified food production and its dietary benefits. In addition, a significant  health benefit of diversified agroecological systems is the reduced exposure to pesticides and  their harmful chemicals used in agriculture (Reganold and Wachter, 2016). Meanwhile, health-g iving qualities have been identified in foods not treated with chemical pesticides. For example, concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as polyphenols have been found to be  substantially  higher in organic crops/organic crop based foods which have not been sprayed with pesticides. Many of these compounds have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases.
  • Cacau LT, De Carli E, de Carvalho AM, Lotufo PA, Moreno LA, Bensenor IM, Marchioni DM. Development and Validation of an Index Based on EAT-Lancet Recommendations: The Planetary Health Diet Index. Nutrients. 2021 May 17;13(5):1698. doi: 10.3390/nu13051698. PMID: 34067774; PMCID: PMC8156093.
    • the EAT-Lancet Commission on “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems” (EAT-Lancet) proposed a healthy and sustainable model diet that aims to provide health to the population and the planet, called the “Planetary Health Diet.” These recommendations are based on predominant consumption of vegetables, greens, fruits, and whole grains, and reduced consumption of meat, fish, eggs, refined cereals, and tuber
    • The Planetary Health Diet Index (PHDI) was adapted from the recommendations of the reference diet proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission []. Briefly, this reference diet was set as a daily intake of 2500 kcal with possible ranges of contributions from 23 different food groups expressed as both g/day and kcal/day. 
  • Chang et al. Modern food emissionsNat. Clim. 13, 205 (2023).***
    • The food sector is known as a major source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, contributing about 30% of the total global emissions, through livestock, fisheries, crop production, land-use changes and processing
    • Fast food chains, which have swept the restaurant landscape over the past 50 years around the world as a convenient and affordable option, are one example causing serious concern because of their climate impacts. They use a high number of carbon-intensive ingredients, such as beef, and have high levels of energy use and packaging as well as food waste.
    • Another signature of the modern food industry is ultra-processed foods. Refined additives used to enhance sensory qualities have become the foundation of the daily diet and made up 58% of the energy intake in the United States5. One study found that ultra-processed foods can contribute up to one-third of the total diet-related greenhouse gas emissions, in particular for adults in developed countries6.
  • Chen PJ, Antonelli M. Conceptual Models of Food Choice: Influential Factors Related to Foods, Individual Differences, and Society. Foods. 2020;9(12):1898. Published 2020 Dec 18. doi:10.3390/foods9121898
    • Some studies have highlighted that eating patterns and food choice have changed with the change of global food systems and food supply, resulting in a shift toward increased intake of unhealthy food [11]. The change of global food supply chains influences the food environments, [12]. Particularly, food choice with ultra-processed food significantly increased, owing to the easy access, cheap price and marketing strategies
    • Choosing low-impact foods (e.g., minimally-processed plant-based foods) and increasing use efficiency of agricultural input offer larger environmental benefits [27]. While food choices with heavily-processed food have negative impacts on the environment [28], lowering consumption of more discretionary products (e.g., oils and sugar) can reduce land use, emission, and freshwater withdrawals [29]. 
    • Thus, promoting healthier and more sustainable dietary patterns, rooted in food choices at individual level, has been recognized as a potential and crucial solution [30].
    • Since consumers’ daily food choices have great potential in transforming towards healthier and more sustainable food systems [11,22], the first and essential step before considering interventions is understanding factors influencing individual food choice in a structural and systematic way.
  • Clapp, j et al. The global political economy of climate change, agriculture and food systems
    • The food and agriculture sector is both a major contributor to climate change and especially vulnerable to its worst impacts. This means that much is at stake in what is a complex set of contested political dynamics as new governance agendas are rolled out.
    • On one hand, there is a strong push for ‘climate-smart agriculture’ (CSA) and related initiatives in the area of marine resources such as the idea of the blue economy, as an attempt to bring a range of viewpoints together to address the interrelationship between these ecological and economic systems
  • Cole A, Pethan J, Evans J. The Role of Agricultural Systems in Teaching Kitchens: An Integrative Review and Thoughts for the Future. Nutrients. 2023; 15(18):4045. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15184045
    • Diet-related chronic disease is a public health epidemic in the United States. Concurrently, conventional agricultural and food production methods deplete the nutritional content of many foods, sever connections between people and the origin of their food, and play a significant role in climate change.
    • The linkages between agriculture, health, and nutrition are undeniable, yet conventional agriculture and healthcare systems tend to operate in silos, compounding these pressing challenges. Operating teaching kitchens in collaboration with local agriculture, including farms, community gardens, vertical farms, and urban agriculture, has the potential to catalyze a movement that emphasizes the role of the food system in promoting human and planetary health, building resilient communities, and encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration. This paper reviews the current state of agricultural systems, food is medicine, consumer behavior, and the roles within these sectors. This is followed by a series of case studies that fill the gaps between TKs and agriculture. The authors summarize opportunities to combine the knowledge and resources of teaching kitchens and agriculture programs, as well as challenges that may arise along the way.
  • Bui L, et al. Planetary Health Diet Index and risk of total and cause specific mortality in two prospective cohort studies. Presented at: NUTRITION; July 22-25, 2023; Boston
    • Bui and colleagues sought to develop a simple tool that public health practitioners and policymakers could use to create strategies that address the climate crisis and public health.
    • People who consumed more environmentally friendly foods were less likely to die over a 30-year follow-up period than those who did not
    • Women in the highest PHDI quintiles had an added benefit of a lower risk for death from infectious diseases 
    • A sustainable dietary pattern should not only be healthy but also consistent within planetary boundaries for greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental parameters.”
  • Chen C, Chaudhary A, Mathys A. Dietary Change Scenarios and Implications for Environmental, Nutrition, Human Health and Economic Dimensions of Food Sustainability. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 16;11(4):856.
    • We found that transition towards a healthy diet following the guidelines of Swiss society of nutrition is the most sustainable option and is projected to result in 36% lesser environmental footprint, 33% lesser expenditure and 2.67% lower adverse health outcome (DALYs) compared with the current diet.
    • Results show that achieving a sustainable diet would entail a high reduction in the intake of meat and vegetable oils and a moderate reduction in cereals, roots and fish products and at the same time increased intake of legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
  • Clark et al.  SUMMARY PAPER 2: The role of healthy diets in creating environmentally sustainable food systems World Health Organization/FAO ”SUSTAINABLE HEALTHY DIETS GUIDING PRINCIPLES” (2019)
    • “Global adoption of a low-meat diet that meets nutritional recommendations for fruits, vegetables, and caloric requirements is estimated to reduce diet-related GHGs by nearly 50 percent, and premature mortality by nearly 20 percent.“
    • “In addition to dietary changes, other changes to the food system could further reduce its environmental impact, including reductions in food loss and waste; technology implementation and changes in management to improve crop yields and reduce fertilizer and pesticide runoff; and changes in food formulation, processing, and preparation.”
    • “The benefits of adopting environmentally sustainable and healthy diets will vary by country”
  • *Clark MA, Springmann M, Hill J, Tilman D. Multiple health and environmental impacts of foods. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2019;116(46):23357-23362.
    • We find that foods associated with improved adult health also often have low environmental impacts, indicating that the same dietary transitions that would lower incidences of noncommunicable diseases would also help meet environmental sustainability targets.
    • “Dairy, eggs, fish, and chicken have relative environmental impacts that range from 3 to 40 for GHGs, acidification, eutrophication, and land use. Producing a serving of unprocessed red meat has the highest impact for all 5 environmental indicators, with a relative environmental impact ranging from 16 to 230. Producing a serving of processed red meat has the second highest mean impact on acidification, GHG emissions, and land use and the third highest mean impact for eutrophication.” 
  • Clune et al. Systematic review of greenhouse gas emissions for different fresh food categories Journal of Cleaner Production. Volume 140, Part 2, 1 January 2017, Pages 766-783
    • This paper presents the results of a systematic literature review of greenhouse gas emissions for different food categories from life cycle assessment (LCA) studies, to enable streamline calculations that could inform dietary choice. 
    • Life cycle assessments (LCAs) of food ingredients and products provide the primary means to understand a food’s environmental impact, discussed in this paper with specific respect to a food’s Global Warming Potential
    • The meta-analysis indicates a clear greenhouse gas hierarchy emerging across the food categories, with grains, fruit and vegetables having the lowest impact and meat from ruminants having the highest impact.
  •  Crippa M, Solazzo E, Guizzardi D, Monforti-Ferrario F, Tubiello FN, Leip A. Food Systems are responsible for a third of global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Nature Food. 2021;2(3):198-209. ***
    • The largest contribution came from agriculture and land use/land-use change activities (71%), with the remaining were from supply chain activities: retail, transport, consumption, fuel production, waste management, industrial processes and packaging.
  • Dietary guidelines and sustainability: Plates Pyramids and Planets. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.    Accessed Sept 2022
    • “One important step that governments can take to signal their commitment to a more sustainable and healthy future, is to develop and disseminate food based dietary guidelines (FBDG) that embed health and sustainability objectives. These can then
      form the basis of policies seeking to foster such patterns
    • Recommendations include for example: having a mostly plant-based diet, focus on seasonal and local foods, reduction of food waste, consumption of fish from sustainable stocks only and reduction of red and processed meat, highly-processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.”
  • Eisenberg DM, Pacheco LS, McClure AC, McWhorter JW, Janisch K, Massa J. Perspective: Teaching Kitchens: Conceptual Origins, Applications and Potential for Impact within Food Is Medicine Research. Nutrients. 2023; 15(13):2859. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15132859
    • There is a need to identify innovative strategies whereby individuals, families, and communities can learn to access and prepare affordable and nutritious foods, in combination with evidence-based guidance about diet and lifestyle. These approaches also need to address issues of equity and sustainability.
    • Teaching Kitchens (TKs) are being created as educational classrooms and translational research laboratories to advance such strategies. Moreover, TKs can be used as revenue-generating research sites in universities and hospitals performing sponsored research, and, potentially, as instruments of cost containment when placed in accountable care settings and self-insured companies.
  • Fanzo, J., Bellows, A. L., Spiker, M. L., Thorne-Lyman, A. L., & Bloem, M. W. (2021). The importance of food systems and the environment for nutrition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 113(1), 7-16. ***
    • “There remain many research questions and gaps in evidence on how to transform food systems so that they benefit both human nutrition and health while protecting ecological resources, supporting livelihoods and affordable foods, and upholding social, cultural, and ethical values.
    • This article will summarize this emerging field, and describe what new science, research, and evidence are needed to bring about food policy changes in the era of climate disruption and environmental degradation.”
  • Farm to Fork Strategy: For a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system. European Commission.  Accessed September, 2022.
    • “Food systems remain one of the key drivers of climate change and environmental degradation. There is an urgent need to reduce dependency on pesticides and antimicrobials, reduce excess fertilisation, increase organic farming, improve animal welfare, and reverse biodiversity loss. “
    • The Farm to Fork Strategy is at the heart of the Green Deal. It addresses comprehensively the challenges of sustainable food systems and recognises the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet. The strategy is also central to the Commission’s agenda to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All citizens and operators across value chains, in the EU and elsewhere, should benefit from a just transition, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn. A shift to a sustainable food system can bring environmental, health and social benefits, offer economic gains and ensure that the recovery from the crisis puts us onto a sustainable path.
  • Foley J. Foreword – diets for a better future – eat knowledge. EAT. Accessed October, 2022.
    • Our food system and agricultural practices are major drivers of environmental degradation worldwide. Already, agricultural land use dominates about 40% of the Earth’s land surface and has been the principle driver of tropical deforestation, habitat loss and degradation, and global biodiversity loss.”
    • “Numerous changes to the food system are needed, including protecting intact ecosystems, improving the sustainability of our farming practices, and addressing the tremendous levels of waste in the food system. But there is one crucial factor that can simultaneously improve our health, our food security, and our environment at the same time – namely, changing our diets.”
  • García S, Pastor R, Monserrat-Mesquida M, et al. Ultra-processed foods consumption as a promoting factor of greenhouse gas emissions, water, energy, and land use: A longitudinal assessment. Sci Total Environ. 2023;891:164417. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.164417
    • This study shows that a lower UPF consumption may contribute to environmental sustainability in terms of reducing emissions of GHGs and energy use, while the use of water may be increased
    • The lower ultra-processed food dietary contents, the lower the environmental footprints of the diet consumed.
    • Decreasing ultra-processed food consumption should be considered for health and for environmental protection
  • Garnett T. Food sustainability: problems, perspectives and solutions. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2013;72(1):29-39. doi:10.1017/s0029665112002947
    • Sustainability also includes the health of the human body and this is intrinsic to the health of the food system.
  • Gardner CD, Hartle JC, Garrett RD, Offringa LC, Wasserman AS. Maximizing the intersection of human health and the health of the environment with regard to the amount and type of protein produced and consumed in the United States. Nutrition Reviews. 2019;77(4):197-215.
    • Greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide equivalents, CO2eq) and blue and green water impacts of US protein consumption resulting from US agricultural practices were obtained from previously published meta-analyses. A 25% decrease in protein intake paired with a 25% shift from animal food to plant food protein intake—from an 85:15 ratio to a 60:40 ratio—would best align protein intake with national dietary recommendations while simultaneously resulting in 40% fewer CO2eq emissions and 10% less consumptive water use.
  • GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Diets.The international Panel on Climate Change.
    • All diets need to provide a full complement of nutritional quality, including micronutrients (FAO et al. 2018).Vegan: Completely plant-based (Springmann et al. 2016b; Stehfest et al. 2009).Vegetarian: Grains, vegetables, fruits, sugars, oils, eggs and dairy, and generally at most one serving per month of meat or seafood (Springmann et al. 2016b; Tilman and Clark 2014; Stehfest et al. 2009).Flexitarian: 75% of meat and dairy replaced by cereals and pulses; at least 500 g per day fruits and vegetables; at least 100 g per day of plant-based protein sources; modest amounts of animal-based proteins and limited amounts of red meat (one portion per week), refined sugar (less than 5% of total energy), vegetable oils high in saturated fat, and starchy foods with relatively high glycaemic index (Springmann et al. 2018a; Hedenus et al. 2014).
  • Gibbs J, Cappuccio FP. Plant-Based Dietary Patterns for Human and Planetary Health. Nutrients. 2022; 14(8):1614.
    •  Transitioning to plant-based diets (PBDs) has the potential to reduce diet-related land use by 76%, diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by 49%, eutrophication by 49%, and green and blue water use by 21% and 14%, respectively, whilst garnering substantial health co-benefits.
    • The public needs to be educated on specific plant-based food sources of essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, and zinc and be reassured that their protein needs can be sufficiently met.
  • Gustafson D, Gutman A, Leet W, Drewnowski A, Fanzo J, Ingram J. Seven Food System Metrics of Sustainable Nutrition Security. Sustainability. 2016; 8(3):196
  • Halpern, B.S., Frazier, M., Verstaen, J. et al. The environmental footprint of global food production. Nat Sustain (2022). *** 
    • “Assessed impacts including displacing ecosystems for cropland and destroying seafloor habitat with fishing equipment; water used by crops and livestock; nutrient pollution of waterways from fertilizer-tainted runoff and concentrated fecal matter; and greenhouse gas emissions from farming machinery and boat engines, production of fertilizers and pesticides, and livestock flatulence and manure”
    • “Importantly, the cumulative pressure per unit of food production (efficiency) varies spatially for each food type such that rankings of foods by efficiency differ sharply among countries”.
    • Layperson article: “Here’s exactly how your diet affects the planet, a landmark study finds”   https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/10/24/pork-beef-diet-climate-impact /
  • Hirt H. Healthy soils for healthy plants for healthy humans: How beneficial microbes in the soil, food and gut are interconnected and how agriculture can contribute to human health. EMBO Rep. 2020 Aug 5;21(8):e51069.
    • Industrial agriculture requires increasing amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to maintain yield. This seems to be the result and/or the cause of a poor microbial diversity in the soil. Soil erosion and climate change also affect microbial biodiversity and contribute to the loss of large areas of arable land and their microbial populations
    • Since microbes from fruits, salads and vegetables join the human gut microbiome, the plant microbiome can affect the gut microbiome and thereby human health.
  • How our food system affects climate change. FoodPrint. Published September 25, 2019
  • HOW TO TRANSFORM FOOD SYSTEMS: 7 CALLS TO ACTION; Global Alliance for the Future of Food. Website. Published 2021. Accessed May 2023.
    • Ensure inclusive, participatory approaches to governance as a way to address the structural inequities in food systems.
    • Increase research for the public good that emphasizes indivisible ecological, health, social, and economic goals.
    • Account for the environmental, social, and health impacts of food systems policies and practices in order to inform better decision-making.
    • Direct public sector investment toward ecologically-beneficial forms of farming, healthy food, and resilient livelihoods and communities.
    • Unlock investment opportunities in sustainable food systems and align private, philanthropic, and multilateral funders with national food systems actors.
    • Create enabling environments where agroecology and regenerative approaches flourish.
    • Promote nutritious, sustainable, whole-food diets adapted to local ecosystems and socio-cultural contexts.
  • Improved climate action on food systems can deliver 20 percent of global emissions reductions needed by 2050. United Nations Environment Programme. Published September 1, 2020.
  • Ivanovich, C.C., Sun, T., Gordon, D.R. et al. Future warming from global food consumptionNat. Clim. Chang. (2023). ***
    • We find that global food consumption alone could add nearly 1 °C to warming by 2100. Seventy five percent of this warming is driven by foods that are high sources of methane (ruminant meat, dairy and rice). 
    • Temperature rise could be cut by 55% by cutting meat consumption in rich countries to medically recommended levels.
    • Consumer Friendly Article detailing this report from The Guardian: Meat, dairy and rice production will bust 1.5C climate target, shows study
  • Johnston JL, Fanzo JC, Cogill B. Understanding sustainable diets: a descriptive analysis of the determinants and processes that influence diets and their impact on health, food security, and environmental sustainability. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(4):418-429. Published 2014 Jul 14. ***
    • The alarming pace of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation concomitant with their negative impact on farming systems, livelihoods, and health make a compelling case for re-examining food systems and diets from a sustainability and public health perspective.
    • Agriculture intensification, poverty, population pressures, urbanization, and lifestyle changes altered food production and consumption in ways that profoundly affect the health of our diets (4, 5). The alarming pace of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation concomitant with their negative impact on farming systems, livelihoods, and health make a compelling case for re-examining food systems and diets from a sustainability and public health perspective.
    • There is an urgent need to develop and promote innovative strategies for understanding, measuring, and promoting sustainable diets and food systems in human health and nutrition: it is crucial to rethink both quantitatively and qualitatively how food is produced, processed, marketed, and consumed. 
    •  At the same time, the globalization of the food system has contributed to environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, while lowering prices for diets high in energy but low in variety and important nutrients (). Coupled with urbanization and increasing sedentary lifestyles, there is an unprecedented rise in obesity and, subsequently, noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
    • The complexity of sustainable diets will require multiple actors and the inclusion of nonlikely stakeholders to move beyond understanding sustainable diets, to measuring them and ultimately promoting them.
      • Consumers, Agriculture producers and processors, Civil society and policymakers.
  • Jones AD, Hoey L, Blesh J, Miller L, Green A, Shapiro LF. A Systematic Review of the Measurement of Sustainable Diets. Adv Nutr. 2016 Jul 15;7(4):641-64.
    • “Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources”
    • Numerous governmental, nongovernmental, multilateral, and research institutions have also acknowledged the central importance of sustainability for informing food and nutrition policy
    • Concerns regarding the environmental impacts of agriculture, post-harvest food supply chains, and excessive food waste have both contributed to the increased attention and urgency that this topic has received, as well as the considerable political traction that has been generated to promote more sustainable diets 
    • Estimating the GHGEs of foods through various stages of production, use, and recycling with the use of the Life Cycle Assessment approach was the most common method applied to measure the environmental impacts of diets
    • Food security and control of productive resources were also disproportionately underrepresented, whereas an examination of cultural heritage and skills, equity, rights, and governance were almost entirely lacking. These social dimensions are critical for understanding the capacity of communities to engage in defining, achieving, and evaluating who wins and loses as diets and food systems change in response to sustainability concerns.
  • JT da Silva, GL da Cruz, F Rauber, ML Louzada. et al. The impact of ultra-processed food on carbon, water and ecological footprints of food in Brazil. European Journal of Public Health. 2020; 30(5).
    • The environmental impacts were higher for Brazilian diets with a larger fraction of energy from UPF. Specifically, low UPF diets seem to have lower GHGE, water and ecological footprints. Our findings offer new motivators for dietary change to simultaneously healthier and more sustainable eating patterns and will be of relevance to consumers and policymakers.
  • Karavasiloglou et al., Adherence to the EAT-Lancet reference diet is associated with a reduced risk of incident cancer and all-cause mortality in UK adults, One Earth (2023), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2023.11.002
    • There is an increasing interest in plant-based diets (i.e., diets rich in plant-based products that include little, if any, animal products), due to their environmental sustainability and potential health benefits. Recently, international experts recommended a mostly plant-based, sustainable diet referred to as the “planetary health diet” 
    • In our study, people who closely followed the planetary health diet had a lower risk for cancer and mortality from all causes than those who did not closely follow the planetary health diet. Our study adds to the existing literature that following the EAT-Lancet reference diet could have benefits for non-communicable disease prevention.
  • Kc KB, Dias GM, Veeramani A, Swanton CJ, Fraser D, Steinke D, Lee E, Wittman H, Farber JM, Dunfield K, McCann K, Anand M, Campbell M, Rooney N, Raine NE, Acker RV, Hanner R, Pascoal S, Sharif S, Benton TG, Fraser EDG. When too much isn’t enough: Does current food production meet global nutritional needs? PLoS One. 2018 Oct 23;13(10):e0205683
    • For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein. Such a move will help protect habitats and help meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Kim, et al. Country-specific dietary shifts to mitigate climate and water crises. Global Environmental Change. 2019 ***
    • Here, we model the greenhouse gas (GHG) and water footprints of nine increasingly plant-forward diets, aligned with criteria for a healthy diet, specific to 140 countries.
    • Relative to exclusively plant-based (vegan) diets, diets comprised of plant foods with modest amounts of low-food chain animals (i.e., forage fish, bivalve mollusks, insects) had comparably small GHG and water footprints.
  • Kovacs, B., Miller, L., Heller, M.C. et al. The carbon footprint of dietary guidelines around the world: a seven country modeling studyNutr J 20, 15 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-021-00669-6
    •  Overall, US recommendations had the highest carbon footprint at 3.83 kg CO2-eq/d, 4.5 times that of the recommended diet for India, which had the smallest footprint.
    • Understanding the carbon footprints of different recommendations can assist in future decision-making to incorporate environmental sustainability in dietary guidance.
  • Kowalsky TO, Morilla Romero de la Osa R, Cerrillo I. Sustainable Diets as Tools to Harmonize the Health of Individuals, Communities and the Planet: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2022; 14(5):928. ***
    • Healthcare workers, as nutrition counselors, have an essential role in the nutritional education of patients (therapeutic objectives) and communities (preventive objectives), which positions them as a social speaker for the promotion of a healthy and sustainable diet. However, the way of eating not only has an impact on population health but also has an important environmental impact.
    • A calorie-balanced diet mainly based on food of plant origin that would allow the attainment of 60% of daily caloric requirements and a low protein intake from animal foods (focusing in fish and poultry) could significantly reduce global morbi-mortality and the dietary environmental impact maintaining a framework of sustainability conditioned by the consumption of fresh, seasonal, locally produced and minimally packaged products.
    • It is essential to be clear on the environmental impact of foods or diets when establishing consumption recommendations. Different environmental-impact indicators have been used that determine in what sense land, water or the atmosphere are affected. Among them, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) have been considered a good proxy for this total environmental load, but this is not the only parameter to have in account.
    • Incorporating the dimension of sustainability is essential in nutritional counseling; however, a successful educational intervention requires prior training and conceptual mastery of the subject.
    • Pollution and environmental deterioration directly affect our health but also the quality of the food we eat. There is increasing evidence of the high exposure to environmental contaminants to which we are exposed from birth, since many of them accumulate in breast milk 33]. In addition, environmental pollution is related to the emerging appearance of different types of diseases such as those that have an autoimmune basis
    • Although meat production has been shown to have a higher environmental cost than vegetable production, eating locally produced meat may be more sustainable than eating vegetables imported from the other side of the globe.
  • Lillisten, B Time for US and EU to regulate factory farms’ greenhouse gas emissions Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Website.  Published April 2021.  Accessed Feb 2022.
    • The factory farm system is global, driven by meat and dairy giants like JBS, Smithfield, Vion and Nestle, and is growing in countries around the world, from Brazil to Mexico to Spain.
    • We found that the top 20 meat and dairy companies combined emitted more GHGs than countries such as the U.K., Germany and France.
  • Lucas, E., Guo, M. & Guillén-Gosálbez, G. Low-carbon diets can reduce global ecological and health costs. Nat Food 4, 394–406 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-023-00749-2
    • We find that, globally, approximately US$2 of production-related external costs were embedded in every dollar of food expenditure in 2018—corresponding to US$14.0 trillion of externalities
    • Our analysis reveals the substantial potential of dietary change…away from animal-sourced foods…particularly in high and upper-middle-income countries, to deliver socio-economic benefits while mitigating climate change.
  • Mejía NV, Reyes RP, Martinez Y, Carrasco O, Cerritos R. Implications of the Western diet for agricultural production, health and climate change Front. Sustain. Food Syst., 20 December 2018
    • In addition to these health effects, the Western diet relies on methods of agricultural production that negatively impact ecosystems, increase the use of fossil fuels and boost greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe).
    • Processed food… comes at a high environmental cost: it generates high GHGe, accelerates land-use change to support agriculture and intensive livestock activities, and requires huge amounts of water and agrochemicals. Changing the Western diet could substantially reduce diabetes, obesity, and GHGe. Consuming insects and a wider variety of plant species could improve health outcomes and reduce some of the environmental impacts of agricultural production.
  • Meyer N, Reguant-Closa A. “Eat as if you could save the planet and win!” sustainability integration into nutrition for exercise and sport. Nutrients. 2017;9(4):412. doi:10.3390/nu9040412.
  • Monteiro, C., Cannon, G., Moubarac, J., Levy, R., Louzada, M., & Jaime, P. (2018). The UN Decade of Nutrition, the NOVA food classification and the trouble with ultra-processing. Public Health Nutrition, 21(1)
    • Ultra-processed products are also troublesome from social, cultural, economic, political and environmental points of view. We conclude that the ever-increasing production and consumption of these products is a world crisis, to be confronted, checked and reversed as part of the work of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and its Decade of Nutrition.
  • Ojo O, Jiang Y, Ojo OO, Wang X. The Association of Planetary Health Diet with the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Related Complications: A Systematic Review. Healthcare (Basel). 2023 Apr 13;11(8):1120. doi: 10.3390/healthcare11081120.
  • Prescott, S et al. Beyond Plants: The Ultra-Processing of Global Diets Is Harming the Health of People, Places, and Planet Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 202320(15), 6461;
    • This effort  [from animal to plant-derived protein sources] has facilitated the emergence of novel ultra-processed “plant-based” commercial products devoid of nutrients and fiber, and sometimes inclusive of high sugar, industrial fats, and synthetic additives. These and other ingredients combined into “plant-based” foods are often assumed to be healthy and lower in calorie content. However, the available evidence indicates that many of these products can potentially compromise health at all scales—of people, places, and planet.
    • The impact of the heavy industrial processing on both human and environmental health is significant but often overlooked, including effects on cognition and mental health.
  • Ranganathan et al. Shifting Diets For A Sustainable Food Future World Resources Institute. 2016
    • Multinational businesses are increasingly influencing what is grown and what people eat. Together, these trends are driving a convergence toward Western-style diets, which are high in calories, protein, and animal-based foods. “
    • “Unless curbed, the demand for animal-based products will make it hard to achieve several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including those on hunger, healthy lives, management of water, consumption and production, climate change, and terrestrial ecosystems.”
  • Read QD, Hondula KL, Muth MK. Biodiversity effects of food system sustainability actions from farm to fork. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Apr 12;119(15):e2113884119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2113884119.
    • Diet shifts and food waste reduction have the potential to reduce the land and biodiversity footprint of the food system. 
    • Domestically produced beef and dairy, which require vast land areas, and imported fruit, which has an intense impact on biodiversity per unit land, have especially high biodiversity footprints. 
    • USDA-recommended US-style and Mediterranean-style diets would increase the biodiversity threat due to increased consumption of dairy and farmed fish.
  • Rieger, J Et al. From fork to farm: Impacts of more sustainable diets in the EU-27 on the agricultural sector. Journal of Agricultural Economics. 11 February 2023 https://doi.org/10.1111/1477-9552.12530
    • Globally, approximately 43 kg of meat and 88 kg of milk are consumed per capita per year. In Europe, these figures are twice as high, with 78 kg of meat and 216 kg of milk per capita per year. As a result, Europeans consume an average of almost 800 kcal per day from animal-based foods (FAO, 2020), which is well above nutritional recommendations (DGE, 2017) and an estimated healthy and sustainable amount of 300 kcal per day (Willett et al., 2019).
    • Although supply-side measures such as technological and management advances to improve agricultural yields, fertiliser efficiency, manure management or feed conversion rates of animals are important, they will not be sufficient to stay within planetary boundaries and reduce agricultural GHG emissions to the level required to meet the 2°C target
  • Rifkin ME. Nutrition policy critical to optimize response to climate, public health crises. Front Nutr. 2023;10:1118753. Published 2023 Aug 16. doi:10.3389/fnut.2023.1118753
    • Accordingly, this article proposes four criteria for nutrition policy in the Anthropocene: objective government nutrition recommendations, healthy dietary patterns, adequate nutrition security, and effective nutrition education.
    • Application of such criteria shows strong potential to improve our resiliency despite the climate and public health crises.
  • Ritchie, H.  Land Use Diets.  Our World in Data Website. https://ourworldindata.org/land-use-diets  Published March 04, 2021.  Accessed June 2023
    • Research suggests that if everyone shifted to a plant-based diet we would reduce global land use for agriculture by 75%. This large reduction of agricultural land use would be possible thanks to a reduction in land used for grazing and a smaller need for land to grow crops. The research also shows that cutting out beef and dairy (by substituting chicken, eggs, fish or plant-based food) has a much larger impact than eliminating chicken or fish
    • Of course the type of land used to raise cows or sheep is not the same as cropland for cereals, potatoes or beans. Livestock can be raised on pasture grasslands, or on steep hills where it is not possible to grow crops. Two-thirds of pastures are unsuitable for growing crops. This raises the question of whether we could, or should, stop using it for agriculture at all. We could let natural vegetation and ecosystems return to these lands, with large benefits for biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
    • Less than half of the world’s cereals are fed directly to humans
    • Great graphics here
  • Ritchie H, Roser M. Environmental impacts of food production. Our World in Data. Published January 15, 2020.
  • Ritchie H. Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our World in Data. Published November 6, 2019.
  • Ritchie, H If the world adopted a plant-based diet we would reduce global agricultural land use from 4 to 1 billion hectares Our World in Data Website; Published 2021
  • Rust NA, Ridding L, Ward C, Clark B, Kehoe L, Dora M, Whittingham MJ, McGowan P, Chaudhary A, Reynolds CJ, Trivedy C, West N. How to transition to reduced-meat diets that benefit people and the planet. Sci Total Environ. 2020 May 20;718:137208.
  • Sameshima H, Akamatsu R, Hayashi F and Takemi Y (2023) Estimation of greenhouse gas emissions from Japanese healthy meals with different protein sources. Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 7:1232198. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2023.1232198
    • The healthy meals with the lowest GHGE in this study had the potential to contribute to solving climate change.
    • The GHGE burden has been shown to vary widely among foods (Clune et al., 2017): vegetables, fruits, cereals (except rice), and pulses (including soybeans) have the lowest GHGE; eggs and non-ruminant livestock (fish, chicken, and pork) have medium GHGE; and ruminant livestock (sheep, cattle) have the highest GHGE. Meat has been shown to be the major source of GHGE emissions in the Japanese diet (Akenji et al., 2019; Sugimoto et al., 2021) and the factor that causes differences in GHGE emissions among household consumption (Koide et al., 2019; Li et al., 2022). Therefore, attention to the selection of protein sources may be important for reducing dietary GHGE.
  • Santos EGO, Queiroz PR, Nunes ADDS, Vedana KGG, Barbosa IR. Factors Associated with Suicidal Behavior in Farmers: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jun 17;18(12):6522. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18126522.
    •  A total of 14 studies were included in the systematic review, and factors associated with farmers’ behavior in mental health (depression), seasonal impacts (drought), and work exposures (herbicides and insecticides) were identified.
  • Scarborough, P., Clark, M., Cobiac, L. et al. Vegans, vegetarians, fish-eaters and meat-eaters in the UK show discrepant environmental impacts. Nat Food 4, 565–574 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-023-00795-w ***
    • There is a strong relationship between the amount of animal-based foods in a diet and its environmental impact, including GHG emissions, land use, water use, eutrophication & biodiversity. Any reduction in animal foods in the diet has a significant beneficial impact on all aspects of planetary health examined. Lower meat diets (<50g/day) have half the CO2 impact of high meat diets & vegan diets have half the impact of lower meat diets. 
    • we link dietary data from a sample of 55,504 vegans, vegetarians, fish-eaters and meat-eaters with food-level data on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, eutrophication risk and potential biodiversity loss from a review of 570 life-cycle assessments covering more than 38,000 farms in 119 countries.
    • Despite substantial variation due to where and how food is produced, the relationship between environmental impact and animal-based food consumption is clear and should prompt the reduction of the latter.
    • The UK has a legal commitment to a 78% reduction in GHG emissions by 2035 compared to 199017 and of halting biodiversity loss by 203018. Our results suggest that much bigger reductions can be achieved by increasing the uptake of plant-based diets, which aligns with other results from this field7,8,11.
  • Semba, R.D., de Pee, S., Kim, B. et al. Adoption of the ‘planetary health diet’ has different impacts on countries’ greenhouse gas emissions. Nat Food 1, 481–484 (2020).
    • Country-specific impacts of dietary transitions should be considered in climate change mitigation policy.
  • Shah UA, Merlo G. Personal and Planetary Health—The Connection With Dietary Choices. JAMA.2023;329(21):1823–1824. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.6118
    • The world now produces more than 3 times the meat and more than double the milk as it did 50 years ago. This has well-established negative effects on the environment, including the destruction of native ecosystems to support livestock grazing and increased cultivation of animal feedstocks.
    • Livestock and its supply chain also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Livestock farming accounts for 50% of methane and 60% of nitrous oxide emissions, which respectively have 25 and 298 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide on a mass basis.
    • Additionally, most nitrogen pollution in wastewater is due to animal-based protein sources and inefficient agricultural practices, which lead to acid rain and toxic algal blooms that cause dead zones of aquatic life.
    • “Our dietary choices have broad and far-reaching impacts. It is no longer just about human health but planetary health as well. Advocating for a reduction in our consumption of animal foods needs to become a central part of climate change education, discussion, and solution. Switching to a plant-based diet is likely one of the fastest and easiest paths to turning the ship.  (Comment from Sharon Mcdowell-Larsen, PhD | Center for Creative Leadership)
  • Springmann M, et al.  Health and nutritional aspects of sustainable diet strategies and their association with environmental impacts: a global modelling analysis with country-level detail. The Lancet. Planetary Health. VOLUME 2, ISSUE 10, E451-E461, OCTOBER 01, 2018
    • Following environmental objectives by replacing animal-source foods with plant-based ones was particularly effective in high-income countries for improving nutrient levels, lowering premature mortality (reduction of up to 12% [95% CI 10–13] with complete replacement), and reducing some environmental impacts, in particular greenhouse gas emissions (reductions of up to 84%).
    • Updating national dietary guidelines to reflect the latest evidence on healthy eating can by itself be important for improving health and reducing environmental impacts and can complement broader and more explicit criteria of sustainability.
  • Springmann M, Clark M, Mason-D’Croz D, et al. Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature. 2018;562(7728):519-525.
    • The researchers found a global shift to a “flexitarian” diet was needed to keep climate change even under 2C, let alone 1.5C. This flexitarian diet means the average world citizen needs to eat 75% less beef, 90% less pork and half the number of eggs, while tripling consumption of beans and pulses and quadrupling nuts and seeds. This would halve emissions from livestock and better management of manure would enable further cuts.
    • We analyze several options for reducing the environmental effects of the food system, including dietary changes towards healthier, more plant-based diets, improvements in technologies and management, and reductions in food loss and waste.
    • Shorter article on the study in the Guardian: Huge reduction in meat-eating ‘essential’ to avoid climate breakdown
      • “Food production already causes great damage to the environment, via greenhouse gases from livestock, deforestation and water shortages from farming, and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution.”
      • “Huge reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system’s impact on the environment.”
  • Springmann M, Clark MA, Rayner M, Scarborough P, Webb P. The global and regional costs of healthy and sustainable dietary patterns: a modeling study. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2021 Oct 27.
    • “In high-income and upper-middle-income countries, dietary change interventions that incentivise adoption of healthy and sustainable diets can help consumers in those countries reduce costs while, at the same time, contribute to fulfilling national climate change commitments and reduce public health spending. In low-income and lower-middle-income countries, healthy and sustainable diets are substantially less costly than western diets and can also be cost-competitive in the medium-to-long term, subject to beneficial socioeconomic development and reductions in food waste.”
  • Springmann M, Godfray HC, Rayner M, Scarborough P. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Apr 12;113(15):4146-51 (Financial argument).
    • Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6-10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70% compared with a reference scenario in 2050.
    • We find that the monetized value of the improvements in health would be comparable with, or exceed, the value of the environmental benefits although the exact valuation method used considerably affects the estimated amounts.
    • we estimate the economic benefits of improving diets to be 1-31 trillion US dollars, which is equivalent to 0.4-13% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050. 
  • Stubbendorff A, Sonestedt E, Ramne S, Drake I, Hallström E, Ericson U. Development of an EAT-Lancet index and its relation to mortality in a Swedish population, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2022;115(3):705–716
    • In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems defined the first global reference diet to improve both human health and environmental sustainability.
    • Divided into 5 adherence groups, the highest adherence to the EAT-Lancet diet was associated with lower all-cause mortality cancer mortality  and cardiovascular mortality 
  • Stylianou, K.S., Fulgoni, V.L. & Jolliet, O. Small targeted dietary changes can yield substantial gains for human health and the environment. Nat Food 2, 616–627 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00343-4
    • Health Nutritional Index to quantify marginal health effects in minutes of healthy life gained or lost of 5,853 foods in the US diet, ranging from 74 min lost to 80 min gained per serving. Environmental impacts showed large variations and were found to be correlated with global warming, except those related to water use.
    •  Substituting only 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meat for fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and selected seafood could offer substantial health improvements of 48 min gained per person per day and a 33% reduction in dietary carbon footprint.
  • Sun, Z., Scherer, L., Tukker, A. et al. Dietary change in high-income nations alone can lead to substantial double climate dividend. Nat Food 3, 29–37 (2022).
    • A dietary shift from animal-based foods to plant-based foods in high-income nations could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from direct agricultural production and increase carbon sequestration if resulting spared land was restored to its antecedent natural vegetation.
  • Sustainable healthy diets: guiding principles. World Health Organization & FAO.   Published 29 October 2019.
    • Food systems are simultaneously a leading cause of environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources. Currently, food systems are responsible for a significant share (20-35 percent) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and are a major driver of land conversion, deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Agriculture alone accounts for roughly 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals, and causes water pollution.7
    • The Guiding Principles for Sustainable Healthy Diets are food based, and take into account nutrient recommendations while considering environmental, social/cultural and economic sustainability.
      Sustainable Healthy Diets are dietary patterns that promote all dimensions of individuals’ health and wellbeing; have low environmental pressure and impact; are accessible, affordable, safe and equitable; and are culturally acceptable
    • “For example, global adoption of a low-meat diet that meets nutritional recommendations for fruits, vegetables, and caloric requirements is estimated to reduce diet-related GHGs by nearly 50 percent, and premature mortality by nearly 20 percent. “
    • “In addition to dietary changes, other changes to the food system could further reduce its environmental impact, including reductions in food loss and waste; technology implementation and changes in management to improve crop yields and reduce fertilizer and pesticide runoff; and changes in food formulation, processing, and preparation.”
    • Great graphic in this paper!
  • Taylor, I., Bull, J.W., Ashton, B. et al. Nature-positive goals for an organization’s food consumptionNat Food 4, 96–108 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-022-00660-2
    • Here we propose an approach to achieve nature-positive targets with respect to the embodied biodiversity impacts of an organization’s food consumption.
    • Organizations are committing to strategic biodiversity targets aimed at mitigating negative biodiversity impacts, and increasingly to nature-positive outcomes in line with global policy directions
  • Thompson, A.  Here’s How Much Food Contributes to Climate Change. Scientific American; Published September 13, 2021
  • Tilman, D., Clark, M. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature 515, 518–522 (2014).
  • True Cost of Food: Measuring What Matters to Transform the Food System. Rockefeller Foundation. ***
  • Vega Mejía N, Ponce Reyes R, Martinez Y, Carrasco O, Cerritos R. Implications of the western diet for agricultural production, health and climate change. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 2018;2.
    • We analyzed the links between health, agricultural production and environmental data together…We found the Western diet—dominated by processed foods, refined sugar, fats and flours—has negative implications for all three. Increased production and consumption of sugar and refined grains over the last 40 years correlates with negative human health outcomes globally: an alarming increase in diseases such as diabetes, overweight and obesity. In addition to these health effects, the Western diet relies on methods of agricultural production that negatively impact ecosystems, increase the use of fossil fuels and boost greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe).
    • Processed food, on the other hand, comes at a high environmental cost: it generates high GHGe, accelerates land-use change to support agriculture and intensive livestock activities, and requires huge amounts of water and agrochemicals
  • Watts N et al. Our Planet, Our Health, Our Future Human health and the Rio Conventions: biological diversity, climate change and desertification. World Health Organization. I-58, 2012
    • There is growing evidence of the impacts of global environmental changes on ecosystems and people, and a renewed consciousness among peoples and nations of the need to act quickly to protect the planet’s ecological and climatic systems. In the last two decades, the Rio Conventions have brought global attention to the impacts of anthropogenic change on the ecosystems of the planet.
    • Increasingly unsustainable practices are placing pressure on natural resources to meet the demands of our economies and the needs of a rapidly growing global population, resulting in soil, water and air pollution, increased emissions of greenhouse gases, deforestation and land use change, expanded urban areas, introduction of non-native species, and inadequately planned development of water and land resources to meet food and energy needs. These changes are having both direct and indirect impacts on our climate, ecosystems and biological diversity. More than ever, the pursuit of public health, at all levels from local to global.
  • Willet, W. Food Planet, Health.  Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems.  E.A.T. EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report, 2019
    • Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and  environmental sustainability on Earth.
    • A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed. Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and today’s children will inherit a planet that has been severely degraded and where much of the population will increasingly suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease.
    • A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.
    • Operating outside this space for any Earth system process (e.g. high rates of biodiversity loss) or food group (e.g. insufficient vegetable intake) increases the risk of harm to the stability of the Earth system and human health.
    • This includes a more than doubling in the consumption of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and a greater than 50% reduction in global consumption of less healthy foods such as added sugars and red meat (i.e. primarily by reducing excessive consumption in wealthier countries). However, some populations worldwide depend on agropastoral livelihoods and animal protein from livestock
  • Willett, W. et al. (2019) ‘Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’, The Lancet, 393, pp. 447–492.
    • Food systems have the potential to nurture human health and support environmental sustainability; however, they are currently threatening both
    • Because much of the world’s population is inadequately nourished and many environmental systems and processes are pushed beyond safe boundaries by food production, a global transformation of the food system is urgently needed.

Additional Resources to Explore

Saving the Planet with your Fork

Saving the Planet with your Fork

While not everyone always has a choice in what they eat and buy, for those who do, what goes on the menu, plate or shopping cart can make a difference for our environment.   This doesn’t require perfection or a complete 180 in dietary habits.  But since our...

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