A review article published in the journal Nutrients describes the impact of six popular diets on human health as well as planetary health. The health and environmental impacts of these diets have been compared in the review using carbon footprint databases and representative meal plans.
Study: Modern Diets and the Health of Our Planet: An Investigation into the Environmental Impacts of Food Choices. Image Credit: Matic Stojs Lomovsek / Shutterstock
Generally, Americans choose dietary plans based on health benefits and ethical considerations. However, besides providing health benefits, dietary plans are known to impact planetary health significantly.
Carbon footprints are a well-known measure of planetary health. The carbon footprint of a given item or activity refers to the amount of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, emitted by that item or activity during a given period. The carbon footprint of a food item depends on its source and composition.
In the current review, the food choices of US residents were evaluated and compared in terms of their impacts on both human and planetary health. A total of six diets, including the Standard American, Mediterranean, vegan, paleo, keto, and climatarian diets, were compared using carbon footprint databases and representative meal plans.
Based on the carbon footprint estimates, the six studied diets were categorized as either high- or low-emission. The high-emission category included the Standard American, keto, and paleo diets, and the low-emission category included the Mediterranean, vegan, and climatarian diets.
Regular consumption of red meat was identified as the primary determinant of high carbon footprints. A significant reduction in carbon footprints of the high-emission diets was observed upon replacing beef (red meat) with chicken or pork.
The lowest carbon footprint estimate was found in the vegan diet, as consumption of meat is completely prohibited in this diet. Similarly, Mediterranean and climatarian diets were associated with lower carbon footprints because of limited consumption of ruminant meat (cattle and sheep) and processed foods….