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Journal Article

Interplay between diets, health, and climate change


Pradhan,  Prajal
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Kropp,  Jürgen P.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Pradhan, P., Kropp, J. P. (2020): Interplay between diets, health, and climate change. - Sustainability, 12, 9, 3878.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_24082
The world is facing a triple burden of undernourishment, obesity, and environmental impacts from agriculture while nourishing its population. This burden makes sustainable nourishment of the growing population a global challenge. Addressing this challenge requires an understanding of the interplay between diets, health, and associated environmental impacts (e.g., climate change). For this, we identify 11 typical diets that represent dietary habits worldwide for the last five decades. Plant-source foods provide most of all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) in developing countries. In contrast, animal-source foods provide a majority of protein and fat in developed ones. The identified diets deviate from the recommended healthy diet with either too much (e.g., red meat) or too little (e.g., fruits and vegetables) food and nutrition supply. The total calorie supplies are lower than required for two diets. Sugar consumption is higher than recommended for five diets. Three and five diets consist of larger-than-recommended carbohydrate and fat shares, respectively. Four diets with a large share of animal-source foods exceed the recommended value of red meat. Only two diets consist of at least 400 gm/cap/day of fruits and vegetables while accounting for food waste. Prevalence of undernourishment and underweight dominates in the diets with lower calories. In comparison, a higher prevalence of obesity is observed for diets with higher calories with high shares of sugar, fat, and animal-source foods. However, embodied emissions in the diets do not show a clear relation with calorie supplies and compositions. Two high-calorie diets embody more than 1.5 t CO 2 eq/cap/yr, and two low-calorie diets embody around 1 t CO 2 eq/cap/yr. Our analysis highlights that sustainable and healthy diets can serve the purposes of both nourishing the population and, at the same time, reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.