The Environmental Footprint Associated With the Mediterranean Diet, EAT-Lancet Diet, and the Sustainable Healthy Diet Index: A Population-Based Study

Sigal Tepper, Meidad Kissinger, Kerem Avital, Danit Rivkah Shahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Providing a growing global population with healthy and sustainable diets is an immediate challenge. In the current study, estimates were obtained for the environmental footprints (land, water, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions) in association with the Mediterranean diet (MED) and the EAT-Lancet reference diet, which represents a healthy diet derived from sustainable food systems. We used a newly developed Sustainable Healthy Diet (SHED) index that was validated for the Israeli population by Tepper et al. in 2020. Methods: A group of 525 participants were recruited via social media, email, and phone. Demographic characteristics, quality of life, and answers to the SHED-index questionnaire were obtained. Dietary assessment was performed using the 116-item Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), which was developed for the Israeli population. Adherence to the MED was calculated using a 9-point score. Adherence to the EAT-Lancet reference diet was assessed through the consumption of 14 food components. The environmental pressure of these dietary patterns was determined based on the “footprint family indicators,” which include land, water, and carbon footprints per unit of agricultural and food products. We assigned values for each food comprising the FFQ and calculated the environmental load for each dietary pattern. Statistical analyses were performed using the R package version 4.1.1 to compare environmental footprint values according to tertiles of the MED score, EAT-Lancet score, and SHED score. Results: The participants (n = 525) were 49% women, educated (82% had academic education), and physically active, and only 13% were smokers. The highest tertiles of adherence to the MED, adherence to the EAT-Lancet reference diet, and the SHED index were associated with the lowest GHG emissions and land use, as well as higher water use. Meat consumption contributed the most to land use, while dairy contributed the most to GHG emissions, and fruits contributed the most to water use. Conclusions: Our analysis reveals that animal protein is the highest contributor to GHG emissions and land use, while fruits and vegetables contribute the most to water consumption. Nevertheless, most of the fruits and vegetables are grown using treated wastewater, which reduces environmental pressure. Given these findings, we suggest that MED and EAT-Lancet dietary patterns should be included in national dietary guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number870883
JournalFrontiers in Nutrition
Volume9
DOIs
StatePublished - 19 May 2022

Keywords

  • EAT-Lancet
  • environmental footprints
  • Mediterranean diet
  • sustainable diets
  • sustainable food system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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