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The triple benefits of slimming and greening the Chinese food system


The Chinese food system has undergone a transition of unprecedented speed, leading to complex interactions with China’s economy, health and environment. Structural changes experienced by the country over the past few decades have boosted economic development but have worsened the mismatch between food supply and demand, deteriorated the environment, driven obesity and overnutrition levels up, and increased the risk for pathogen spread. Here we propose a strategy for slimming and greening the Chinese food system towards sustainability targets. This strategy takes into account the interlinkages between agricultural production and food consumption across the food system, going beyond agriculture-focused perspectives. We call for a food-system approach with integrated analysis of potential triple benefits for the economy, health and the environment, as well as multisector collaboration in support of evidence-based policymaking.

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Fig. 1: Food intake per day per capita and malnutrition prevalence in China.
Fig. 2: Economic, public health and environmental impacts of the Chinese food system.
Fig. 3: The CFSD framework to visualize and analyse the food system indicators.


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We acknowledge funding from the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant no. 2020YFA0608604), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 72134006) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities in China, as well as support from the Food System Economics Commission (grant no. G-2009-01682) and the Good Food Foundation. We thank H. Chen and J. Xuan from Zhejiang University and Y. Gu from Nanjing Normal University for their excellent research assistance.

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X.W., B.L.B. and C.Y. developed the initial idea and draft of the paper. X.W., B.L.B., C.Y. and C.M. contributed equally to the further conceptualization and writing of the manuscript. X.W. curated the data and created the illustrations. X.W., B.L.B., C.Y., C.M. and K.Z.C. contributed to the editing and reviewing of the manuscript and agreed on the final version.

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Correspondence to Xiaoxi Wang, Benjamin Leon Bodirsky or Changzheng Yuan.

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Wang, X., Bodirsky, B.L., Müller, C. et al. The triple benefits of slimming and greening the Chinese food system. Nat Food 3, 686–693 (2022).

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