Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems.

Department of Neurorehabilitation, Villa Salus Hospital, Mestre-Venice, Italy.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Impact Factor: 2.95). 03/2007; 61(2):279-86. DOI: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602522
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT OBJECTIVE: Recent studies support the hypothesis that plant-based diets are environmentally better than meat-based diets. This study aims to further explore this topic and to compare different environmental impacts resulting from different dietary patterns (omnivorous, vegetarian, vegan) and methods of production (conventional farming and organic agriculture). DESIGN: Three weekly balanced diets, equivalent to one another for energetic and nutrient content, have been planned: an omnivorous one, a vegetarian one and a vegan one. For each one, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method has been applied in order to calculate the environmental impact, expressed in 'points'. INTERVENTIONS: The software we selected to carry out the Inventory Analysis and the Impact Assessment is SimaPro5. The Assessment phase has been conducted using Ecoindicator 99, a damage-oriented method, which analyses the impact according to three large damage categories, each of them subsuming various impact categories.

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    ABSTRACT: The Mediterranean diet can represent a healthy food model for the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases. When compared with the US and Czech diets using the ecological footprint method, it emerges that the Mediterranean diet entails lower costs for the environment and a larger sustainability. The present study shows that dietary choices based on the Mediterranean diet require a significantly lower use of agricultural land compared to the other two models. Furthermore, because the diet typically promotes consumption of local products, the Mediterranean diet requires fewer hectares for atmospheric CO 2 absorption due to the decreased use of fuel for transportation. However, in terms of efficient use of land, this guarantees only a small gain. Overall, on average, an individual who follows the Mediterranean diet generates an ecological footprint that is 1.33 times smaller than the one corresponding to the US model and 1.28 times smaller with respect to the Czech model.
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Substantial evidence exists linking food production and environmental degradation. Climate change may alter agricultural productivity across wide areas, decreasing food security. Often overlooked is the interconnection between food consumption patterns and climate change. We compared the carbon emissions of agricultural inputs required to produce vegetarian and nonvegetarian diets. Methods: Food consumption patterns of vegetarians were compared with nonvegetarians, by using data from the Adventist Health Study, a cohort of 34,000 California Adventists, of which 45% were vegetarians. Consumption of 10 foods, of a 50 food-item questionnaire, was significantly different by vegetarians (beef, chicken, eggs, beans, and six fruits). California agricultural practices and commodity production data were collected for three carbon-intensive operations: fertilizer and pesticide application, and primary energy. The three inputs were converted into carbon equivalent (CE) emissions per amount of commodity produced using published emission factors, and subsequently multiplied by the differential consumption of the 10 food items. Results: Consumption of a vegetarian diet resulted in 2.4 times less CE emissions compared to a nonvegetarian diet in this population. Producing the commodities for the vegetarian diet required fertilizer, pesticide, and primary energy inputs, which resulted in 4.0, 2.5, and 1.05 less CE emissions, respectively. The emissions associated with the production of a vegetarian diet are annually 7.1 kg CE per capita less than those of a nonvegetarian diet. Conclusion: Producing a vegetarian diet results in substantially less GHG emissions than a nonvegetarian diet. These findings support the hypothesis that plant-based diets have a lower global warming potential than meat-based diets, although exceptions may occur in relation to some agricultural practices, transportation and processing. Daily food choices of large segments of the population may ultimately result in major impacts on the environment and have public health consequences. Diet matters for mitigating climate change.
    Epidemiology 11/2009; 20(6):S262. · 6.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Consumers play an important role in the food chain environmental system. However, there seem to be only few studies that have focused on food-related environmental impacts of consumer activities. This paper identifies the primary consumer activities that affect carbon footprints and their relative importance, and consumer choice in household food-related transportation, preservation and preparation. The data for food transportation, preservation and preparation were collected from existing surveys from which the information has been adapted to households. According to the study results, a Finnish household on average produces 170 kilograms of CO<sub align="right"> 2 </sub>-equivalent per capita, of which 50% derives from food preservation, 27% from food transportation and 23% from food preparation.
    Progress in Industrial Ecology An International Journal 01/2010; 7(3):257 - 267.

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