The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review

Lukasz Aleksandrowicz, Rosemary Green, Edward J M Joy, Pete Smith, Andy Haines

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537 Citations (Scopus)
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Food production is a major driver of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water and land use, and dietary risk factors are contributors to non-communicable diseases. Shifts in dietary patterns can therefore potentially provide benefits for both the environment and health. However, there is uncertainty about the magnitude of these impacts, and the dietary changes necessary to achieve them. We systematically review the evidence on changes in GHG emissions, land use, and water use, from shifting current dietary intakes to environmentally sustainable dietary patterns. We find 14 common sustainable dietary patterns across reviewed studies, with reductions as high as 70–80% of GHG emissions and land use, and 50% of water use (with medians of about 20–30% for these indicators across all studies) possible by adopting sustainable dietary patterns. Reductions in environmental footprints were generally proportional to the magnitude of animal-based food restriction. Dietary shifts also yielded modest benefits in all-cause mortality risk. Our review reveals that environmental and health benefits are possible by shifting current Western diets to a variety of more sustainable dietary patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0165797
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported by Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health to LA ( Wellcome Trust Our Planet, Our Health, Grant 103932 to RG and EJ ( This study is part of the Sustainable and Healthy Diets in India (SAHDI) project. The funders of this study had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the report.


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