Environmental Impact of Dietary Choices: Role of the Mediterranean and Other Dietary Patterns in an Italian Cohort
Mediterranean diet
Nordic diet
Diet quality
Dietary pattern
Greenhouse gas emission
Energy use
Water use
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Grosso, G. (Giuseppe); Fresan, U. (Ujue); Bes-Rastrollo, M. (Maira); et al. "Environmental Impact of Dietary Choices: Role of the Mediterranean and Other Dietary Patterns in an Italian Cohort". International Journal of Environmental Research andPublic Health. 17 (5), 2020, 1468
Background: Current scientific literature suggests healthy dietary patterns may have less environmental impact than current consumption patterns, but most of the studies rely on theoretical modeling. The aim of this study was to assess the impact on resources (land, water, and energy) use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of healthy dietary patterns in a sample of Italian adults. Methods: Participants (n = 1806) were recruited through random sampling in the city of Catania, southern Italy. Dietary consumption was assessed through a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ); dietary patterns were calculated through dietary scores. The specific environmental footprints of food item production/processing were obtained from various available life-cycle assessments; a sustainability score was created based on the impact of the four environmental components calculated. Results: The contribution of major food groups to the environmental footprint showed that animal products (dairy, egg, meat, and fish) represented more than half of the impact on GHG emissions and energy requirements; meat products were the stronger contributors to GHG emissions and water use, while dairy products to energy use, and cereals to land use. All patterns investigated, with the exception of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH), were linearly associated with the sustainability score. Among the components, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet and Alternate Diet Quality Index (AHEI) was associated with lower GHG emissions, dietary quality index-international (DQI-I) with land use, while Nordic diet with land and water use. Conclusions: In conclusion, the adoption of healthy dietary patterns involves less use of natural resources and GHG emissions, representing eco-friendlier options in Italian adults.

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