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Incorporation of novel foods in European diets can reduce global warming potential, water use and land use by over 80%

This article has been updated


Global food systems face the challenge of providing healthy and adequate nutrition through sustainable means, which is exacerbated by climate change and increasing protein demand by the world’s growing population. Recent advances in novel food production technologies demonstrate potential solutions for improving the sustainability of food systems. Yet, diet-level comparisons are lacking and are needed to fully understand the environmental impacts of incorporating novel foods in diets. Here we estimate the possible reductions in global warming potential, water use and land use by replacing animal-source foods with novel or plant-based foods in European diets. Using a linear programming model, we optimized omnivore, vegan and novel food diets for minimum environmental impacts with nutrition and feasible consumption constraints. Replacing animal-source foods in current diets with novel foods reduced all environmental impacts by over 80% and still met nutrition and feasible consumption constraints.

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Fig. 1: Environmental impact by food group in different diets.
Fig. 2: Sensitivity analyses.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this Article (and in the Supplementary Information and Supplementary Data 1) or available at the public Git repository:

Code availability

The code generated and used during this study is available in R and at the public Git repository:

Change history

  • 12 May 2022

    In the version of this article initially published, the Supplementary Data file posted was the wrong version. The Supplementary Data are now updated.


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We thank Dr. Y. Kobayashi for help with OpenLCA and the methods, and the rest of the Future Sustainable Food Systems group for their interest and support. This work was supported by the Research Funds at the University of Helsinki, the Emil Aaltonen foundation (grant no. 190145N1V), the Yrjö Jahnsson foundation (grant no. 20207300), the ‘Cultured Meat in the Post-animal Bioeconomy’ project (no. 201802185) funded by the KONE foundation, Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki ry, Academy of Finland funded project TREFORM (grant no. 339834) and the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 819202)

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



R.M. and H.L.T. conceptualized the project. R.M. conducted the formal analysis and investigation, administered the project, carried out the data visualization and wrote the original draft of the manuscript. J.M., L.K. and N.J. curated the data and validated the results. M.J. and R.M. developed the methodology. H.L.T. acquired the funding and supervised the project. J.M., L.K., N.J., M.J. and H.L.T. reviewed and edited the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rachel Mazac.

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Competing interests

Liisa Korkalo was a board member of the company TwoDads at the time of this work. The other authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Food thanks Anita Frehner, Asaf Tzachor and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Percent change of the optimized amounts of each food group.

Omnivore (OMN) diet percent change by food group from current European diet (mean intake = 0) by impact minimized–Global Warming Potential (GWP), Land Use (LU), and scarcity-weighted water use (WU)–while meeting all nutrition and feasible consumption constraints; note: plant-based alternatives are increased large percentages over the intake in current diets and are shown below in a separate panel: liquids include oat, soy, rice, and almond milk, and solids are tofu and plant-based meat imitates.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Uncertainty analysis impact range by food group.

Mean and quartiles of minimized total impact for optimized—including nutritional and cultural constraints listed—omnivore (OMN), vegan (VEG), and Novel/Future Food (NFF) diets separated by food group; column 1: minimized GWP (kg CO2 eq.), column 2: minimized Land Use (m2a eq.), and column 3: minimized Scarcity-weighted water use (m3).

Extended Data Fig. 3 Nutrient composition of diets.

Macronutrients (protein and fat in g/day and energy in kcal/day) and mass (average g/day) of the current diet (CD) and the optimized diets based on minimized objective function with nutritional and feasible consumption constraints. OMN: omnivore diets, NFF: novel/future foods diets, VEG: vegan diets. The ‘Other’ food group here includes Snacks, Sugars, Juice, Non-alcoholic Beverages, Alcoholic Beverages, and Spice/Condiments. Diet type minimized: Global Warming Potential (GWP), land use (LU), scarcity-weighted water use (WU).

Extended Data Fig. 4 Sensitivity analysis OMN.1.

Percent change by food group from the current diet in optimized sensitivity analysis omnivore diet (OMN.1) with all nutrition and feasible consumption constraints and ±80% of the current mean intake of animal source foods required, minimized for global warming potential (GWP), land use (LU), and water use (WU).

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–4, Tables 1–3 and references for nutritional information on novel/future foods.

Supplementary Data 1

Supplementary data.

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Mazac, R., Meinilä, J., Korkalo, L. et al. Incorporation of novel foods in European diets can reduce global warming potential, water use and land use by over 80%. Nat Food 3, 286–293 (2022).

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