Food sustainability in Europe.

Access to sustainable food is a challenge that researchers from INRA, MS-Nutrition and Montpellier SupAgro have explored across Europe. If the inherent dietary changes involve a decrease in the consumption of fat, sugar and alcoholic beverages, an increase in fruit, vegetables and starchy foods and a decrease in the animal / vegetable ratio, the specific modifications to animal products depend on habits populations. These results were published on February 14, 2018 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and PLos One.


Today, the food challenge is to provide the world's population with a sustainable food that is nutritionally adequate, culturally acceptable, environmentally friendly, economically equitable and accessible (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). food and agriculture). From the diet usually consumed by men and women in five European countries (France, Italy, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and using mathematical models, researchers from INRA, MS- Nutrition and Montpellier SupAgro have identified dietary changes that can improve its sustainability.

Sustainability of food, reconcile nutritional recommendations and reduction of greenhouse gases

Regardless of the country, researchers have shown that substitutions between large food groups are necessary to meet all nutritional recommendations (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids) without changing the total caloric intake. These substitutions concern above all the replacement of calories from fatty and sweet products and alcoholic beverages by calories from starchy foods, fruits and vegetables.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) while meeting nutritional recommendations, changes in animal product consumption and substitutions within food groups must be added to previous nutritional substitutions .

These changes are all the more important as the desired reduction of EGES is great. However, if the reduction of EGES does not exceed 30%, it is possible to take into account the eating habits of the populations. A decrease in the animal / plant ratio is then necessary and the modifications concerning the animal products differ according to the country and the sex - p. ex. the energy share of fish increases in France and Italy but decreases in Finland or the energy share of dairy products increases in Sweden and France irrespective of sex, whereas in the other countries it increases for men and decreases for the women. Finally, in almost all cases, it is essential to reduce the energy contribution of cold cuts and meat, especially ruminants (beef and lamb).

Sustainability of the diet, considering bioavailability and co-production

The researchers then tested their models against additional criteria: cost, bioavailability of key nutrients (proteins, iron, zinc, vitamin A) since it differs depending on the animal or plant origin of food, and -production (eg links between meat and milk), in addition to the reduction of at least 30% of several environmental impacts of food (EGES, eutrophication, acidification) and compliance with nutritional recommendations.
In all cases, the quantities of fruits and vegetables and starchy foods increase, and the animal / vegetable ratio decreases, as well as the daily cost. A reduction in the quantity of meat, especially ruminants, is necessary, but it is all the less drastic as the bioavailability of nutrients and co-production links are taken into account. Thus, the average consumption of meat, which in France is 110 g / d for women and 168 g / d for men, decreases by 78% for women and 68% for men in the "nutrition" model. -environment "and only 32% for women and 62% for men in the" nutrition-environment-bioavailability-co-production links "model.
These studies confirm that it is possible to adopt a sustainable diet that simultaneously integrates environmental impact, nutritional adequacy, affordability and cultural acceptability, subject to particular food choices. If improving the sustainability of the diet of men and women in France and more widely in Europe through an increase in the quantities of fruit and vegetables and starchy foods, and a decrease in the share of animal products, this study reveals however the complexity of the issue and warns against simple reasoning that would tend to assimilate plant and sustainable, for example.


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