Discover five recent scientific articles from our food, health and sustainability watch.
A growing number of studies suggest that removing animal products from the diet could drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Croatian researchers have evaluated the impact of this transition. Indeed, a shift to a vegan diet would contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions. However, this work points out that this transition may have negative impacts on natural resources and food security such as reduced plant and animal genetic diversity, increased pressure on land and water, and pesticide residues. Moreover, without an overall change in the food system, this transition would have economic impacts in terms of employment and food security. Given these results, authors invite to anticipate and support the consequences of food transitions with a sustainable agriculture policy.
Spanish researchers have identified health and environmental co-benefits of a sustainable diet, as well as the promotional strategies that support its implementation. According to this work, a calorie-balanced diet – mainly based on plant foods (60% of energy intake) and a low intake of animal proteins – could significantly reduce overall morbidity and mortality, and the environmental impact of the diet. To support the implementation of such diets, authors emphasize the need to work on the links between food, health, and the environment from school onwards, and the importance of lifelong support by health professionals.
While cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of death in Europe, almost half of them are related to eating habits. To improve the prevention of such diseases, Italian researchers have proposed a diet based on the available literature regarding the links between diet and cardiovascular health. This diet includes increased intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low glycemic index cereals, nuts, legumes and fish, and reduced amounts of beef, butter, high glycemic index cereals or potatoes and sugar. Such diet is consistent with the EFSA recommendations and would provide adequate nutrient intakes while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 48.6% compared to the current diet.
Experts have compared the dietary intake of Australians with the recommendations of two dietary models. According to this work, Australians consume 2 to 4 times more discretionary foods than the maximum amounts recommended by baseline models. Moreover, current diet does not provide enough vegetables or plant-based alternatives to meat and has higher environmental impact scores than baseline models. Thus, authors highlight the need to change the dietary practices of Australians to meet health and sustainability recommendations.
A French study evaluated the environmental impacts of diets based on the consumption of ultra-processed foods. The dietary intakes from 2,121 adults who participated in the INCA 3 study were analyzed and 14 environmental impact indicators were studied using the Agribalyse database. According to this work, diets that are rich in ultra-processed products are globally associated with greenhouse gas intensification as well as higher energy demand for land use and post-agricultural stages, such as processing.