Social Sciences

Environmental and health impacts of food

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A study explores how various types of food affect both human health and the environment.

Dietary choices are associated with environmental degradation as well as human illness and mortality.

However, the nature of the link between health issues and the environmental impact of producing certain foods remains unclear. David Tilman, Michael A. Clark, and colleagues analyzed 19 meta-analyses to determine how consuming an additional serving per day from 1 of 15 different food groups is associated with environmental harm and human health.

Consumption of fish, fruits, nuts, minimally processed whole grains, olive oil, and vegetables was associated with reduced risk of mortality and reduced risk of one or more diet-related diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.

Each of these foods was also associated with low environmental impacts, except fish, which was associated with moderate impacts.

Unprocessed and processed red meats were associated with increased risk of mortality and diet-related diseases as well as the highest environmental impacts for all tested environmental factors.

Sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with increased disease risk but low environmental harm.

The findings suggest that dietary changes that could reduce the risk of diet-related mortality and illness might also support environmental sustainability, according to the authors.

Source: PNAS