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      The climatic impact of food consumption in a representative sample of Irish adults and implications for food and nutrition policy

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          Abstract

          Objective

          To evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) associated with the diet of Irish adults.

          Design

          GHGE were estimated by applying conversion factors to habitual food consumption data taken from the National Adult Nutrition Survey, which was representative of the population. Descriptive analyses were undertaken for GHGE for the total population, as well as accounting for energy misreporting and across categories of sociodemographic and socio-economic factors and tertiles of emissions.

          Setting

          Republic of Ireland.

          Subjects

          Adults aged 18–87 years ( n 1500).

          Results

          The GHGE derived from daily dietary intakes was estimated as 6·5 kg of CO 2 equivalents (CO 2eq) per person. Males, younger consumers, those with secondary education and student employment status were associated with significantly higher GHGE. Red meat was the highest contributor to GHGE with 1646 g CO 2eq arising from a mean intake of 47 g/d. Dairy and starchy staples were the next largest dietary GHGE sources, with mean daily emissions of 732 g CO 2eq and 647 g CO 2eq, respectively. The lowest emissions were associated with consumption of vegetables, fruits and legumes/pulses/nuts.

          Conclusions

          Based on profiling using actual food consumption data, it is evident that one single measure is not sufficient and a range of evidence-based mitigation measures with potential to lower emissions throughout the food chain should be considered. The research contributes towards an improved understanding of the climatic impact of the dietary intakes of Irish adults and can serve to inform a sustainability framework to guide action in food and nutrition policy development.

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          Most cited references 42

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          Where are the best opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the food system (including the food chain)?

           Tara Garnett (2011)
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            Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: food and agriculture.

            Agricultural food production and agriculturally-related change in land use substantially contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide. Four-fifths of agricultural emissions arise from the livestock sector. Although livestock products are a source of some essential nutrients, they provide large amounts of saturated fat, which is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. We considered potential strategies for the agricultural sector to meet the target recommended by the UK Committee on Climate Change to reduce UK emissions from the concentrations recorded in 1990 by 80% by 2050, which would require a 50% reduction by 2030. With use of the UK as a case study, we identified that a combination of agricultural technological improvements and a 30% reduction in livestock production would be needed to meet this target; in the absence of good emissions data from Brazil, we assumed for illustrative purposes that the required reductions would be the same for our second case study in São Paulo city. We then used these data to model the potential benefits of reduced consumption of livestock products on the burden of ischaemic heart disease: disease burden would decrease by about 15% in the UK (equivalent to 2850 disability-adjusted life-years [DALYs] per million population in 1 year) and 16% in São Paulo city (equivalent to 2180 DALYs per million population in 1 year). Although likely to yield benefits to health, such a strategy will probably encounter cultural, political, and commercial resistance, and face technical challenges. Coordinated intersectoral action is needed across agricultural, nutritional, public health, and climate change communities worldwide to provide affordable, healthy, low-emission diets for all societies.
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              Sustainable diets for the future: Can we contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eating a healthy diet?

              Food systems account for 18-20% of UK annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs). Recommendations for improving food choices to reduce GHGEs must be balanced against dietary requirements for health. We assessed whether a reduction in GHGEs can be achieved while meeting dietary requirements for health. A database was created that linked nutrient composition and GHGE data for 82 food groups. Linear programming was used iteratively to produce a diet that met the dietary requirements of an adult woman (19-50 y old) while minimizing GHGEs. Acceptability constraints were added to the model to include foods commonly consumed in the United Kingdom in sensible quantities. A sample menu was created to ensure that the quantities and types of food generated from the model could be combined into a realistic 7-d diet. Reductions in GHGEs of the diets were set against 1990 emission values. The first model, without any acceptability constraints, produced a 90% reduction in GHGEs but included only 7 food items, all in unrealistic quantities. The addition of acceptability constraints gave a more realistic diet with 52 foods but reduced GHGEs by a lesser amount of 36%. This diet included meat products but in smaller amounts than in the current diet. The retail cost of the diet was comparable to the average UK expenditure on food. A sustainable diet that meets dietary requirements for health with lower GHGEs can be achieved without eliminating meat or dairy products or increasing the cost to the consumer.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                applab
                Public Health Nutrition
                Public Health Nutr.
                Cambridge University Press (CUP)
                1368-9800
                1475-2727
                March 2017
                September 26 2016
                : 20
                : 04
                : 726-738
                Article
                10.1017/S1368980016002573
                © 2016

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