The Environmental Sustainability of Plant-Based Dietary Patterns: A Scoping Review

Elsevier, Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, March 2023
Carey C.N., Paquette M., Sahye-Pudaruth S., Dadvar A., Dinh D., Khodabandehlou K. et al.

Background: A large part of the existential threat associated with climate change is the result of current human feeding patterns. Over the last decade, research evaluating the diet-related environmental impacts of plant-based diets has emerged, and a synthesis of the available data is now due. Objectives: The objectives of the study were as follows: 1) to compile and summarize the literature on diet-related environmental impacts of plant-based dietary patterns; 2) to assess the nature of the data on impacts of plant-based dietary patterns on both environmental parameters and health (e.g., if land use is reduced for a particular diet, is cancer risk also reduced?); and 3) to determine where sufficient data exist for meta-analyses, in addition to identifying gaps within the literature. Methods: Global peer-reviewed studies on the environmental impacts of plant-based diets were searched in Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Web of Science. After removing duplicates, the screening identified 1553 records. After 2 stages of independent review by 2 reviewers, 65 records met the inclusion criteria and were eligible to be used in synthesis. Results: Evidence suggests that plant-based diets may offer lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs), land use, and biodiversity loss than offered by standard diets; however, the impact on water and energy use may depend on the types of plant-based foods consumed. Further, the studies were consistent in demonstrating that plant-based dietary patterns that reduce diet-related mortality also promote environmental sustainability. Conclusions: Overall, there was agreement across the studies regarding the impact of plant-based dietary patterns on GHGE, land used, and biodiversity loss despite varied plant-based diets assessed.