13weekdiet2

Environmentally sustainable diets also offer significant health benefits.

In the United Kingdom, food, especially meat and dairy products, is

responsible for about 20% of all greenhouse gas production. The

UK’s Climate Change Act of 2008 mandates reduction of greenhouse

gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. One factor in meeting

this mandate is to modify food consumption. An advisory committee

created three possible scenarios for dietary changes that could reduce

greenhouse gas emissions.

Ideally, in addition to helping the environment, dietary changes

would also offer positive health benefits. A recent report estimated the

health effects of each of the possible scenarios.

* Scenario 1 calls for a 50% reduction in consumption of meat and

dairy products and an increase in fruits, vegetables, and cereals. This

is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19% and to result in

36,910 deaths per year being delayed or averted due to the healthier

nature of the diet.

* Scenario 2 calls for a 75% reduction in use of cow and sheep meat

and replacing these foods with chicken and pork. This is estimated to

reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9% and to delay or avert 1,999 deaths

per year.

* Scenario 3 calls for a 50% reduction in use of meat from pigs and

chickens and replacement of those foods by fruits, vegetables, and

cereals. This is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3% and

to result in 9,297 deaths per year being delayed or averted.

It is clear that Scenario 1 has the greatest impact on the

environment and on human health. We can only wonder how much greater

effect would be seen if 100% of meat and dairy products were to be

replaced with fruits, vegetables, and cereals.

An analysis similar to this should be conducted in the United

States and other countries so that dietary recommendations can be

developed that represent best practices with regards to the environment

and health.

Scarborough P, Allender S, Clarke D, et al. 2012. Modelling the

health impact of environmentally sustainable dietary scenarios in the

UK. Eur J Clin Nutr [Epub ahead of print].

By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, FADA

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