A Comparison of the Mediterranean Diet and Current Food Patterns in Italy: A Life Cycle Thinking Approach for a Sustainable Consumption

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Sep 27;19(19):12274. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191912274.


The transition toward more sustainable food systems, which already represents a central element of the European Farm to Fork and Green Deal strategies, could be an effective measure to contribute to global decarbonization and greenhouse gas (GHGs) reduction goals; concurrently, it could improve the health status and nutrition of the global population. In this context, the Mediterranean diet (MD) could play a considerable role, as it is generally recognized as a more balanced, healthy, and sustainable eating pattern than Western consumption patterns, which are characterized by excess food and high energy content, thus causing undesirable effects on both human health and the environment. Although traditionally linked to MD, Italy sees relatively moderate adherence by its citizens, as they consume about +75% of the daily caloric intake recommended by MD. Therefore, this study aims to quantitatively assess the potential environmental, economic, and health impacts of this lower adherence to MD by Italians. Current Italian Food Patterns (CIFP) in 2019 were analyzed and compared to the MD recommended amounts through a Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) approach (LCA) and carbon footprint (CF) analysis. The results show that CIFP, compared to MD, has +133% greater impacts on the environmental macro-area, +100% greater impacts on the human health macro-area, and +59% greater impacts on the economic macro-area (with annual fossil and mineral resource savings of $53.35 per person, $3.2 billion per year). The analysis also shows that CIFP has a CF of 6.54 × 101 kg CO2 eq, +142% over MD (2.7 × 101 kg CO2 eq), resulting in a lower environmental impact of the Mediterranean diet.

Keywords: CED; Italian consumption: sustainability; LCA; LCT; Mediterranean diet; carbon footprint; food patterns.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon Footprint
  • Diet
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Greenhouse Gases*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Life Cycle Stages


  • Greenhouse Gases
  • Carbon Dioxide

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.