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Linking environmental sustainability and nutritional quality of the Atlantic diet recommendations and real consumption habits in Galicia (NW Spain)

Esteve-Llorens, Xavier, Moreira, Maria Teresa, Feijoo, Gumersindo, González-García, Sara
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.683 pp. 71-79
beef, carbon footprint, dairy products, decision making, dietary recommendations, eating habits, environmental indicators, food consumption, fruits, greenhouse gas emissions, issues and policy, life cycle assessment, models, nutrient content, nutritive value, vegetables, Spain
Today's society is increasingly aware of food consumption patterns. Under the perspective that real consumption trends are often not in line with healthy recommendations, this research focuses on the study of the environmental and nutritional sustainability of two types of food consumption habits present in the northern Atlantic area of Spain (Galicia). The main objective is, therefore to detect the existing deviations between the current Galician diet (GD) and the traditional and increasingly relevant Recommended Atlantic Diet (RAD), allowing verifying whether current consumption patterns ensure an optimal and sustainable nutritional profile. In this sense, the carbon footprint from a Life Cycle Assessment perspective has been estimated as environmental indicator of both dietary patterns and, the nutritional quality has been determined by the Nutrient Rich Diet 9.3 index and the Health gain score. The carbon footprint of both dietary models is moderately high compared to recommended diets such as the Mediterranean one. Comparing the two scenarios, the associated greenhouse gas emissions are about 15% higher for GD than for RAD, mainly due to the higher intake of beef and dairy products. On the other hand, nutritional quality is comparatively higher for RAD than for GD, associated with higher consumption of vegetables and fruits. An additional objective of this work has been to consider a sensitivity analysis to determine the effect of replacing beef with alternative sources.Having in mind this study, it can be concluded that the real consumption pattern in Galicia is far from the recommended one, with worse environmental and nutritional quality. The promotion of social awareness policies to guide consumers in the choice a healthier and more environmentally sustainable dietary pattern should be advisable for regional decision-makers as well as for those who wish to promote adherence to the Atlantic diet in other regions and countries.