Abstract

BackgroundFollowing the release of the Sustainable Development Goals, dietary patterns and guidelines are being revised for their effect on the environment in addition to their health implications. The objective of this study was to evaluate and compare the Environmental Footprints (EFPs) of food consumption patterns among Lebanese adults.MethodsFor this study, data for adults aged > 18 years (n = 337) were drawn from a previous national survey conducted in Lebanon (2008–2009), where dietary intake was assessed using a 61-item Food Frequency Questionnaire. Dietary patterns previously derived in the study sample included: Western, Lebanese-Mediterranean and High-Protein. In this study, food consumption and dietary patterns were examined for their EFPs including water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, using review of life cycle analyses.ResultsIn the study population, the EFPs of food consumption were: water use: 2571.62 ± 1259.45 L/day; energy use: 37.34 ± 19.98 MJ/day and GHGs: 4.06 ± 1.93 kg CO2 eq / day. Among the three dietary patterns prevalent in the study population, the Lebanese-Mediterranean diet had the lowest water use and GHG per 1000 Kcal (Water (L/Kg): 443.61 ± 197.15, 243.35 ± 112.0, 264.72 ± 161.67; GHG (KG CO2 eq/day) 0.58 ± 0.32, 0.38 ± 0.24, 0.57 ± 0.37, for the Western, Lebanese-Mediterranean and High- Protein, respectively). The scores of the High-Protein dietary pattern were associated with higher odds of the three EFPs, whereas the Lebanese-Mediterranean dietary pattern was associated with lower odds of energy use. Furthermore, scores of the Western pattern were associated with higher water use.ConclusionsThe findings of this study showed that, among Lebanese adults, the Western and High-Protein dietary patterns had high EFPs, whereas the Lebanese-Mediterranean dietary pattern had lower water use and GHG emissions. Coupled to our earlier findings of the Lebanese-Mediterranean pattern’s beneficial effects on health, the findings of this study lend evidence for the notion that what is healthy for people may also be healthy for ecosystems and highlight the need for nutrition recommendations to take into consideration the nexus of water, food, energy, in addition to health.

Highlights

  • Following the release of the Sustainable Development Goals, dietary patterns and guidelines are being revised for their effect on the environment in addition to their health implications

  • Most Life cycle analysis (LCA) used in this study reported greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in terms of CO2 eq a few LCAs reported CH4 and Nitrous oxide (N2O) separately, in addition to CO2

  • In terms of associations between adherence to various dietary patterns and having a high Environmental Footprints (EFP), the results of this study suggested that adherence to either the Western or the High-Protein led to an increase in the odds for water use, the High-Protein pattern was associated with higher odds for energy use and GHGs, while the Lebanese-Mediterranean was associated with lower odds for energy use

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Summary

Introduction

Following the release of the Sustainable Development Goals, dietary patterns and guidelines are being revised for their effect on the environment in addition to their health implications. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region suffers from a high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) constituting 47% of the region’s burden of diseases, and this rate is expected to rise up to 60% by 2020 [1]. Such a high burden of NCDs is possibly brought about by a shift in dietary habits and a remarkable nutrition transition [2]. United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) (2016), called to reexamine food-based dietary guidelines, for their health outcomes and with respect to their environmental sustainability, given the considerable impact of dietary choices and food consumption on the environment [9]. Efforts to quantify environmental impacts of food consumption led to the development of environmental footprint indicators, spanning multiple dimensions and including greenhouse gas emissions (carbon footprint), nitrogen release (nitrogen footprint), water use (blue and green water footprint) and land use (land footprint) [10]

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