Scientists seek link between poor diet and greenhouse gases

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Nutrition

Australia’s greenhouse gas contribution could be cut by a quarter if people were to eat whole foods at the levels recommended by national dietary guidelines.

Csiro, the Australian government science agency, now hopes to prove this by conducting a survey to examine the environmental impact of the nation’s diet.

It will use data from the latest edition of the country's largest diet survey, the Healthy Diet Score, to look at the role food consumption contributes to Australia’s environmental footprint, as well as providing consumers with a score indicating the nutritional quality of their eating habits.

Improving the national diet can not only achieve health benefits but also environmental advantages, such as minimising harmful greenhouse gases via reducing processing, packaging and transport requirements, the agency believes.

It is asking Australia to participate in the online survey​ again this year, after more than 70,000 people took part in the Healthy Diet Score last year, to provide researchers with a detailed picture of the country's eating habits.

The survey evaluates diet based on food variety, frequency and quantity of the essential food groups to calculate greenhouse gas emissions related to food consumption.

This is the first year that the Healthy Diet Score will use data to measure the broader environmental impact of poor eating and the findings will be released later this year.

The 2016 edition will also track special diets for the first time, such as vegetarian and gluten free, offering tailored advice for people who struggle to meet the dietary guidelines.

Manny Noakes, Csiro’s research director for nutrition and health, said the impact of poor eating habits reaches further than just an individual's waistline.

"Obesity and poor nutrition habits negatively affects the broader community​," Prof. Noakes said.

"This year's Healthy Diet Score will help us better qualify the environmental footprint from individuals eating habits​.

"The new survey will provide researchers with an updated snapshot based on current eating habits and revised environmental modelling data​."

In addition to health impact, Csiro estimates that junk food is one of the highest contributors to food-related greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for up to 27% of the 14.5kg of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions produced by the average Australian each day.

Last year, the country's diet quality was given a rating of 61/100, driven largely by Australians’ fondness for junk food, which was eaten at levels three times higher than the recommended daily limit.

The survey comprises a 10-minute online assessment which evaluates diet quality and identifies areas of improvement to give a score out of 100.

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