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Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems



Recent studies support the hypothesis that plant-based diets are environmentally better than meat-based diets. This study aims to further explore this topic and to compare different environmental impacts resulting from different dietary patterns (omnivorous, vegetarian, vegan) and methods of production (conventional farming and organic agriculture).


Three weekly balanced diets, equivalent to one another for energetic and nutrient content, have been planned: an omnivorous one, a vegetarian one and a vegan one. For each one, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method has been applied in order to calculate the environmental impact, expressed in ‘points’.


The software we selected to carry out the Inventory Analysis and the Impact Assessment is SimaPro5. The Assessment phase has been conducted using Ecoindicator 99, a damage-oriented method, which analyses the impact according to three large damage categories, each of them subsuming various impact categories.

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We thank Paul Appleby (Senior Statistician, Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK) for his expert suggestions on the drafts of this paper and Raffaella Ravasso (ATRA Documentation Center, Lugano, Switzerland) for her analytic assistance. None of the authors had any conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to M Tettamanti.

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Guarantor: M Tettamanti.

Contributors: MT set up the study and with the aid of MB, analysed the data and wrote the paper. LC set up the meal planning and LB provided significant consultation and helped in the writing and reviewing of the paper.

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Baroni, L., Cenci, L., Tettamanti, M. et al. Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. Eur J Clin Nutr 61, 279–286 (2007).

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  • nutrition ecology
  • environmental impact
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • meat-based diet
  • plant-based diet
  • organic farming

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