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.

16 October 2018

A combination of measures including a shift towards plant-based diets, halving food waste and technological changes in agriculture (such as more efficient fertiliser application, feed additives and changes in irrigation) could significantly reduce the food system’s environmental impacts relative to 2050 projections and potentially even reduce impacts below today’s levels, according to a new paper.

8 October 2018

A new law requires that state institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes and prisons in California must provide a vegan menu option. The move has been welcomed by health and animal welfare campaigners.

25 September 2018

FCRN member Laurence Godin of the University of Geneva has written a paper that uses social practice theory to map food prescriptions (i.e. guidelines on how best to eat) and their translation in practice. It identifies what elements are essential for taking up food prescriptions, beyond individual motivation and intention.

18 September 2018

FCRN member Nicole Tichenor Blackstone of Tufts University has recently authored a paper that compares the environmental impacts of three healthy eating patterns recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The vegetarian eating pattern had lower impacts than the US-style and Mediterranean-style eating patterns in all six impact categories considered.

4 September 2018

If everyone in the world ate a diet consistent with the United States Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines, we would need more additional farmland than the amount of fertile land available, claims a recent paper.

20 August 2018

The University of Exeter’s Centre for Rural Policy Research has released the report “Changing food cultures: challenges and opportunities for UK agriculture”. The report gives an overview of how UK agriculture might be affected by future changes in the food system, such as health concerns or increases in purchases of ready-meals and snacks.

31 July 2018

A new paper in Science reviews trends in meat consumption and the associated health and environmental implications. The paper also discusses potential means of influencing meat consumption levels.

24 July 2018

Current crop production levels could feed a population of 9.7 billion people in 2050, according to a recent paper, but only in a future in which there are socio-economic changes, significant shifts in diets towards plant-based foods, and limited biofuel production. Without dietary changes, crop production would have to increase by 119% by 2050.

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.

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.

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%).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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