The environmental impact of nutrition transition in three case study countries

Margaret Gill, Diana Feliciano, Jennie Macdiarmid, Pete Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


This paper explores the environmental impacts of dietary changes consistent with the nutrition transition common in countries going through economic development, inferred from commodity supply data from FAOSTAT. Supply data for 1961 and 2011 from three case study countries which have undergone significant economic transition in recent decades (Brazil, China and India) were compared on a per-capita basis to avoid confounding issues of population growth. Brazil showed marked increases in beef and poultry meat supply (kcal) while in China poultry and pig meat showed marked increases, particularly for pig meat. Per-capita supply of fruit in Brazil and vegetables in China were higher than in Europe by 2011. Supply of vegetable oil increased in all three countries and this was the majority commodity traded, hence much of its impact would have been felt in country of origin. The increase in beef production in Brazil, attributed to changing diet (2001–2011), had the greatest impact on increased water use, although the increase in supply of pig meat in China and cereals in China and India (attributable to changing diets) also made major contributions. The increase in cereal supply in China and India had a major impact on phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, with beef having a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The increase in vegetable oils had a major impact through increasing land use. These findings highlight differential environmental impacts of the nutrition transition in different countries and emphasise the need to measure environmental impacts beyond those on GHGs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-504
Number of pages12
JournalFood Security
Issue number3
Early online date12 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Open Access
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.


  • food crops
  • environment
  • nutrition
  • climate change
  • security
  • environmental impacts
  • nutrition transition
  • China
  • Brazil
  • India


Dive into the research topics of 'The environmental impact of nutrition transition in three case study countries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this