Total Environmental Impact of Three Main Dietary Patterns in Relation to the Content of Animal and Plant Food

Foods. 2014 Jul 25;3(3):443-460. doi: 10.3390/foods3030443.


Based on a review of the most recent available scientific evidence, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (USDA DG) provide information and advice for choosing a healthy diet. To compare the environmental impacts of, respectively, omnivorous (OMN), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (LOV) and vegan (VEG) dietary patterns as suggested in the USDA DG, we analyzed the three patterns by Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. The presence of animal food in the diet was the main determinant of environmental impact. The major impact always stemmed from land and water use. The second largest impact came from energy use. Emission of toxic inorganic compounds into the atmosphere was the third cause of impact. Climate change and acidification/eutrophication represented other substantial impacts.

Keywords: Dietary Guidelines; Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); environmental impact.