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Study Finds Dietary Patterns Recommended by Dietary Guidelines May Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

(North American Meat Institute)

New research from Carnegie Mellon University found that diets that include meat are potentially lower in greenhouse gas emissions when nutrition is considered. The researchers compared diets featuring the typical U.S. food pattern, but reducing caloric intake; a food pattern recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) maintaining current caloric intake; and the DGA food pattern with reduced caloric intake. They found that the first scenario, which included the most meat, had the greatest environmental benefit, decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while the others increased GHG emissions. Researchers explained the results are primarily due to USDA recommendations for greater caloric intake of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and fish/seafood, which have relatively high resource use and emissions per Calorie. Researchers added that their results show that a switch to a vegetarian diet will not automatically reduce someone’s carbon footprint. The study generated considerable media attention and its findings are similar to those in previous work examining GHG emissions in the context of nutrient density.

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