Sustainable Eating Patterns

Linking Sustainability to the Healthy Eating Patterns of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: A modelling Study. Last week I opened the can to this study and promised further explanation. Here we go. Since all whole foods come from our earth, with major solar, mineral and hydro contributions from her creative partners, it’s a simple fact to grasp that what we eat directly affects the planet that produces it. Right? So, why not figure out how the Dietary Guidelines that the USDA and FDA propound affect our earth? This study if the first foray into that dark scientific, fact-thick forest.

First, the Study considered three dietary eating “patterns” because the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends them: (1) the healthy US-style; (2) the Mediterranean-style, and (3) the vegetarian style.

Next, the study measures six impact categories or “environmental burdens” associated with producing foods consumed under the three dietary patterns. Those categories are the following: global warming potential, land use, water depletion, freshwater and marine eutrophication, and particulate matter or respiratory organics.

Conclusions: The dietary patterns 1 and 2 (see assigned numbers above) had similar impacts, except for freshwater eutrophication. Freshwater eutrophication was 31% lower in pattern 1 than in pattern 2, primarily due to increased seafood consumed in pattern 2. All three patterns had similar water depletion impacts, with fruits and vegetables as major water consumers. For five of the six impacts, pattern 3 (vegetarian) had 42–84% lower burdens than both patterns 1 and 2. Reliance on plant-based protein and eggs in pattern 3 compared to general emphasis on animal-based protein in patterns 1 and 2 was a key factor of differences, as was a lower overall protein foods recommendation in pattern 3.

This study is the first stab at an enormous undertaking. The exhibits to this study alone, including the list of 173 studies that were thoroughly reviewed to compose the modelling, are overwhelming in terms of sheer content. Much more work is needed. However, I’m energized when I think about the brain-power and manhours of labor contributed to create study. I’ll continue this pursuit and advise of new data. These are matters of tremendous gravity for all of us. We at Elements are considering our contributions to this area of study and solution seeking. See study here.

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