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Why food sustainability must become a key part of dietary guidance

According to the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), environmental sustainability should be the basis of dietary guidance, whether in establishing national standards or working with individuals. The long-term sustainability of the food system is critical for improving the nutritional health of a population.

The position paper from SNEB is based on recent scientific discoveries regarding the environmental impacts of foods and diets. The authors describe the current issues we are facing, as well as the challenges that we will encounter in meeting future food needs.  

Dr. Diego Rose, a professor in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University is the paper’s lead author.

“Based on the best science we have today, it is clear that current environmental problems – including global climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, water shortages, and water pollution–demand urgent attention, threaten long-term food security, and are in part caused by our current food choices and agricultural practices,” explained Dr. Rose.

“The position paper was motivated by the severity of current environmental problems, including global climate change. A number of studies have been published about the difficulty of getting to 2050 with an adequate worldwide food supply due to factors such as population increase and change in dietary habits.”

“The paper was also inspired by the information published in the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s scientific report to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services in 2015, which included a chapter dedicated to sustainability. We wanted to pass this vital information along to others.”

The experts at SNEB are urging for environmental sustainability considerations to be included in future federal dietary guidance. These guidelines should contain specific advice, such as substituting meat from animals with other protein foods.

“In discussing dietary recommendations, nutritionists can discuss both the health and environmental impacts of food choices to promote behavior change among consumers,” said Dr. Rose. “People want to know what to eat today, so it is incumbent on those of us who are knowledgeable about nutritional science and education techniques to provide the best advice, based on the available evidence to date.”

The paper is published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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