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For those on keto or paleo diets, this may be tough to swallow.
A new study from Tulane University that compared popular diets on both nutritional quality and environmental impact found that the keto and paleo diets, as eaten by American adults, scored among the lowest on overall nutrition quality and were among the highest on carbon emissions.
The keto diet, which prioritizes high amounts of fat and low amounts of carbs, was estimated to generate almost 3 kg of carbon dioxide for every 1,000 calories consumed. The paleo diet, which eschews grains and beans in favor of meats, nuts and vegetables, received the next lowest diet quality score and also had a high carbon footprint, at 2.6 kg of carbon dioxide per 1,000 calories.
The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compiled diet quality scores using data from more than 16,000 adult diets collected by the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Individual diets were assigned point values based on the federal Healthy Eating Index and average scores were calculated for those eating each type of diet.
The study’s senior author Diego Rose, professor and nutrition program director at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said that while researchers have examined the nutritional impact of keto and paleo diets, this is the first study to measure the carbon footprints of each diet, as consumed by U.S. adults, and compare them to other common diets.
“We suspected the negative climate impacts because they’re meat-centric, but no one had really compared all these diets—as they are chosen by individuals, instead of prescribed by experts—to each other using a common framework,” Rose said.
On the other end of the spectrum, a vegan diet was found to be the least impactful on climate, generating 0.7 kg of carbon dioxide per 1,000 calories consumed, less than a quarter of the impact of the keto diet. The vegan diet was followed by…