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To find diets optimised on nutrition and environmental impact close to the current Dutch diet and to identify the most effective and acceptable options for mitigating environmental impact.
Linear programming was used to optimise diets of Dutch men and women aged 9–69 years, divided into ten age–gender groups. The analysis included nutrient composition, a metric for popularity and life cycle assessments of 207 food products. Greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy use and land occupation were used to calculate a weighted score for the overall environmental impact. Optimised diets were solutions that minimised changes to the current diet while satisfying all nutritional constraints, with stepwise reductions in environmental impact.
Dutch children and adults aged 9–69 years.
Meat was always reduced. Vegetable, fruit and dairy contents remained similar, while bread, fatty fish and legumes increased. The extent of changes depended on age and gender. Beverages were not heavily reduced. Nutrients critical for the outcome were α-linoleic acid, retinol, Ca, Na, Se, dietary fibre, SFA, thiamin and Fe (women of childbearing age). Total protein, essential amino acids and carbohydrates were not critical.
Reducing meat is the most effective option for lowering the environmental impact of diets in all age–gender groups. Reducing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages is another option. Leaving out fish and dairy products are not. The differences in nutritional requirements related to age and gender have a significant effect on the composition of the optimised diets.
To evaluate the greenhouse gas emission (GHGE) of diets in Dutch girls, boys, women and men and to explore associations with diet composition.
Descriptive analyses for the total population as well as stratified for gender, age and dietary environmental load.
Dutch children and adults aged 7–69 years (n 3818).
The GHGE of daily diets was on average 3·2 kg CO2-equivalents (CO2e) for girls, 3·6 kg CO2e for boys, 3·7 kg CO2e for women and 4·8 kg CO2e for men. Meat and cheese contributed about 40 % and drinks (including milk and alcoholic drinks) 20 % to daily GHGE. Considerable differences in environmental loads of diets existed within age and gender groups. Persons with higher-GHGE diets consumed more (in quantity of foods and especially drinks) than their counterparts of a similar sex and age with low-GHGE diets. Major differences between high- and low-GHGE diets were in meat, cheese and dairy consumption as well as in soft drinks (girls, boys and women) and alcoholic drinks (men). Of those, differences in meat consumption determined the differences in GHGE most. Diets with higher GHGE were associated with higher saturated fat intake and lower fibre intake
GHGE of daily diets in the Netherlands is between 3 and 5 kg CO2e, with considerable differences between individuals. Meat, dairy and drinks contribute most to GHGE. The insights of the study may be used in developing (age- and gender-specific) food-based dietary guidelines that take into account both health and sustainability aspects.
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