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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Tulane: Just One Change Per Day Can Make Your Diet More Planet Friendly

Food production is an important contributor to climate change, accounting for about a quarter of carbon emissions globally. If Americans changed their diets by swapping out just one item each day, they could greatly reduce their carbon footprint from food, according to a new Tulane University study that examined the real-world diets of thousands of people in the United States.

“We found that making one substitution of poultry for beef resulted in an average reduction of dietary greenhouse gases by about a half,” said lead study author Dr. Diego Rose, professor and director of nutrition at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Rose presented the research at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting held last weekend.

“To our knowledge, this is the only nationally representative study of the carbon footprint of individually chosen diets in the U.S.,” Dr. Rose said. “We hope this research will raise awareness about the role of the food sector in climate change and the sizable impact of a simple dietary change.”

The new study is based on diet information from more than 16,000 participants in the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. A portion of this survey asked participants to recall all the foods they consumed in the previous 24 hours. The researchers used this information to determine which foods had the highest greenhouse gas emissions and to calculate a carbon footprint for each individual diet.

They found that the 10 foods with the highest impacts on the environment were all cuts of beef and that about 20 percent of participants reported consuming one of these high-carbon foods.

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