203141 Environmental impact of changing global dietary patterns

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 10:30 AM

Poonam Dhavan, MBBS, DHA, MPH , School of Public Health, University of Texas, Houston, TX
Cheryl Perry, PhD , School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus, University of Texas, Austin, TX
Dietary patterns play a significant role in man's impact on environment. Increased consumption of animal-based diets, primarily in developed countries, has been a significant development in this regard. With rising incomes and globalization, developing countries will witness nearly 85% of the future increase in demand for meat products. Along with negative health effects, diets comprised of meat products and convenient pre-prepared food items generally cause more environmental harm than plant-based diets. This paper provides an overview of various environmental effects of changing dietary patterns, including those on land and water use, energy needs, greenhouse gas emissions and waste management. Several epidemiological and statistical methods such as life cycle impact assessment and ecological footprint analyses of relationships between dietary patterns and environmental impact are discussed. An extensive literature review provides evidence for greater consumption of fossil fuels, low energy (conversion) efficiency and huge emission of greenhouse gases, by production systems for meat-intensive diets for production of food calories equivalent to vegetarian diets. International differences in meat consumption cause inequities in negative environmental impacts of dietary patterns. These findings are alarming for sustainability of food production systems to meet growing food demands of future populations. This paper will provide most recent estimates for such effects and discuss policy and regulatory approaches that should be urgently considered - including consumer education for adoption of energy efficient diets, regulation of meat production systems for responsible use of natural resources, disincentives for environmentally damaging practices and ‘food-efficiency' taxes.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the association between changing global dietary patterns on environment and sustainability of food production. 2. Assess effects of meat-intensive diets on environment with most recent estimates of effects on land, water, energy and waste management. 3. Discuss selected policy and regulatory approaches to reduce negative environmental impact of changing dietary patterns, thereby also encouraging healthy diets.

Keywords: Environment, Food and Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an MPH epidemiology student of the global health concentration, due to graduate in Spring 2009. I have previously worked in international health at WHO and currently serve as a research coordinator at the University of Texas School of Public Health [UTSPH]. The research for this abstract/presentation was carried out as a project for my course in environmental health at the UTSPH, and received encouraging feedback from the course instructor/class team on the work. The APHA meeting would be an excellent opportunity to present this work on a wider platform.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.