Healthier Diets Lead to a Healthier Earth

A team led by Dr. Holly Rippin at the University of Leeds adds to the mounting evidence that nutritious diets are more sustainable and kinder to our Earth. Their findings will be released in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on November 24th.

Food production accounts for nearly one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentally sustainable diets have proven to be less processed and more nutritious. Previous studies have proven this higher sustainability over broad food categories rather than specific food items. Dr. Rippin’s team evaluated more than 3,230 food items in the UK Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset (COFID) while looking at the diets of 212 adults. Food was tracked over three 24-hour periods.

Their analysis found that:

  • non-vegetarian diets had 59% higher greenhouse gas emissions than vegetarian diets
  • men’s diets were responsible for 41% higher emissions than women’s
  • diets that met the saturated fats, carbs, and sodium levels recommended by the World Health Organization had lower emission levels than those that didn’t
  • higher consumption of meat increased emissions

The authors of the paper said “We all want to do our bit to help save the planet. Working out how to modify our diets is one way we can do that. There are broad-brush concepts like reducing our meat intake, particularly red meat, but our work also shows that big gains can be made from small changes, like cutting out sweets, or potentially just by switching brands.”



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