Food systems (activities ranging from agricultural production to consumption and waste) are major drivers of impacts on human health and the environment. In response, there is a growing need for food system transformation, with shifting diets as a key lever of transformational change. In this study, the first Swiss national dietary survey (MenuCH) was used to screen disease burdens and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of Swiss diets (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, slimming),
with a focus on gender and education level. The Health Nutritional Index (HENI), a novel disease burden-based nutritional index built on the Global Burden of Disease studies, was used to indicate healthiness using comparable, relative disease burden scores. Our scientists at Quantis wrote this paper and helped design the study that brought together the cross-disciplines of sociology, LCA and public health.
Some key takeaways include:
- it is not being “vegetarian” or “eating local” per se that helps make a more sustainable or healthier diet. Instead, it is key aspects of diets like whole grains, processed meat and alcohol that make the difference.
- To have healthier and more sustainable diets (win-win!), everyone in Switzerland could eat more whole grains – this should be a far higher priority than addressing other ingredients such as less salt, sugar, red meat, or more fruits, vegetables, etc.
- To have healthier and more sustainable diets (win-win!), Swiss men, in particular, could drink less alcohol and eat less processed meat
- All diets (even vegan/vegetarian ones) were above the planetary boundary limit given by the Swiss confederation, so shifting eating behaviors is not enough to address the footprint of the Swiss food system. Action levers such as reducing food loss and waste, and eliminating deforestation and fossil fuels are critical.