Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Consumption and diets

The type, quantity and formats of foods we eat vary considerably over time and space. A person’s consumption of food is rarely a matter solely (or even largely) of personal conscious choice. Instead, it is affected by such wide-ranging factors as cultural identity and taboos, food availability and price, genetics, legislation, technological innovation and marketing campaigns. Governments and civil society organisations have long been promoting healthy diets to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases both at a global and national scale and the concept of ‘sustainable healthy diets’ – diets that have lower environmental impacts but fulfil nutritional requirements –  is very slowly gaining ground.

10 July 2018

The Better Buying Lab at the World Resources Institute has published a summary of two workshops. The workshops, which brought together over 50 people from the academic community and the food industry, identified research questions on how to increase consumption of plant-based foods by changing the language used to describe it.

26 June 2018

This book, by Peter Jackson et al., looks at different types of convenience foods and why consumers use them, and seeks to apply its findings to policies for healthy and sustainable diets.

26 June 2018

The Nordic Food Policy Lab has produced a report outlining 24 policies from the Nordic region that aim to change food consumption and tackle the social and environmental challenges caused by the current food system. Policies are organised into five themes - nutrition, culture, meals, waste and sustainability - and include salt labelling, building regional food identity, improving hospital meals and developing networks to reduce food waste. The authors include Marie Persson, former staff member of the FCRN.

Image: gamene, veggie burrito bento, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
26 June 2018

The relationship between diets, health and quality of life has been the focus of several initiatives to accelerate a move towards healthier diets. However, the results of these interventions have been mixed. This paper by Susan Jebb of the University of Oxford summarises some of these dietary change interventions while discussing the need for improved methods to monitor and evaluate their progress.

Image: K-State Research and Extension, Cattle feedlot, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
26 June 2018

FCRN member Martin Heller of the Centre for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan has calculated the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) and energy demand associated with the diets of individuals in the US, based on a one day dietary recall survey. The highest-emitting 20% of diets are responsible for 46% of diet-related GHGEs, while the lowest-emitting 20% of diets cause 6% of diet-related GHGEs. The food types causing the highest percentage of GHGEs are meats (57%), dairy (18%), beverages (6%) and fish and seafood (6%).

Image: Pxhere, dish food cooking, CC0 Public Domain
26 June 2018

This paper estimates greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) associated with the food purchased by US households (based on survey data) and examines the links between food GHGEs and demographic factors. It suggests that education on the links between food and climate could be targeted at more educated and more affluent consumers, since their research shows (see below) that the these households have more GHGE-intensive dietary patterns.

Image: USDA, Chicken wings with celery, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 June 2018

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett was interviewed for a piece on the difficulties of eating ethically by UK newspaper the Evening Standard. The piece, which discusses meat replacements, lab-grown meat and trade standards, also features Dan Crossley of the Food Ethics Council and Kath Dalmeny of Sustain.

Image: Bharathimohanr, Vellappallam Rice, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

600 million people could be affected as climate change decreases the levels of several nutrients in rice, according to a new paper. The paper estimated changes in rice nutrient content using experiments where rice (of several different cultivars) was grown under conditions of enriched CO2. At the higher CO2 levels, the following average decreases in nutrient levels were found compared to rice grown under ambient CO2: 10% for protein; 8% for iron; 5% for zinc; 17% for vitamin B1; 17% for vitamin B2; 13% for vitamin B5; 30% for vitamin B9. In contrast, vitamin E levels were 14% higher under elevated CO2 levels.

Image: Olearys, Alimentos Saudáveis à Mesa, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
5 June 2018

A new study published in Science has consolidated data on five environmental impact categories (land use, freshwater withdrawals weighted by local water scarcity, climate change, acidification and eutrophication) for 40 agricultural goods from over 38,000 farms. It finds that the environmental impacts of producing the same food are highly variable between different farms. It also finds that the environmental impacts of animal products are generally higher than plant-based products.

4 June 2018

The FCRN was a collaborator in the workshop “Supporting Healthy and Sustainable Diets: how do we get there?”, held in September 2017 as part of Land Economy for Sustainability Strategic Dialogue Series hosted by the Hoffmann Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy at Chatham House and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. This summary of the workshop outlines the actions that governments, businesses and civil society can take to make diets more sustainable and healthy.

Image: Max Pixel, Shopping Cart, CC0 Public Domain
26 May 2018

A recent paper examines the connections between food system changes and diet and nutrition changes in Latin America and the Caribbean. It finds that food systems are changing to include more processed food, more and more easily available meat, dairy and out-of-season foods, cheaper food and a rise in supermarkets. It concludes that, while some Latin American countries are leaders on interventions to change demand (such as by introducing taxes on sugary beverages or regulating the advertising of unhealthy food), there is a long way to go, and that a change towards healthier food systems will require introducing incentives for companies to market healthy foods, driven by consumer demand.

Image: Lynn Betts, Runoff of soil & fertilizer, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
21 May 2018

Structural changes in the food system such as replacing half of animal proteins with plant-based proteins could significantly marine eutrophication in the North-East Atlantic, according to a recent paper. The authors addressed the question of whether Western Europe can reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff to coastal areas without endangering food security.

Image: DixieBelleCupcakeCafe, Tropical Flower Confetti Cupcakes, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
15 May 2018

Taxes to increase the price of sweet snacks such as chocolate, confectionary, cakes and biscuits could have greater health benefits than similar increases in the prices of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), according to a recent paper. 

9 May 2018

Helen Adams of the Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) project, to which the FCRN is linked, has written about LEAP’s first public engagement project. The team ran a stall at Super Science Saturday at Oxford’s Museum of Natural History. Members of the public tasted samples of vegetarian sausages and vegan cheese and were asked to sort different food types according to their greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Lisa.davis, A vegetarian Indian Thali, Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
30 April 2018

The authors of this paper calculate the carbon footprint of various recommended healthy diets around the world and find that most recommendations are inconsistent with the 1.5°C climate target, and are probably also inconsistent with the 2.0°C target unless non-food sectors almost completely cut their carbon emissions by 2050. Annual per capita diet-related carbon footprints vary from 687 kg CO2 eq. for Indian vegetarian dietary guidelines to 1579 kg CO2 eq. for US dietary guidelines.

24 April 2018

This book, by Sirpa Sarlio, explores various aspects of the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the global food system, discusses health and sustainability aspects of specific foods including insects and meat substitutes and sets out options for promoting healthy and sustainable diets.

Image: Engin_Akyurt, Burger bread meat, Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0
23 April 2018

This paper used a survey to explore consumer views of burgers made from beef, plant-based or cultured meat. The survey participants were asked to choose, hypothetically, between the varieties of burger and were told that all burgers tasted the same (the participants did not actually get to try any burgers during the experiment). The results predict that, if prices were equal, 65% of consumers would buy the beef burger, 21% the plant-based burger, 11% the cultured meat burger and 4% would not buy any.

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