Environmental impacts of dietary quality improvement in China

He, P., Baiocchi, G., Feng, K., Hubacek, K. & Yu, Y., 15-Jun-2019, In : Journal of Environmental Management. 240, p. 518-526 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Copy link to clipboard


  • Environmental impacts of dietary quality improvement in China

    Final publisher's version, 1.42 MB, PDF document

    Request copy


Dietary-related risks rank top among all the health risks in many countries. The 2nd United Nations Sustainable Development Goal aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Yet whether improving nutritional quality also benefits the environment is still under-explored, particularly for developing countries. China is an interesting and important case because of its rapidly changing dietary patterns distinct from the western countries studied in the literature, sub-national level heterogeneity, socio-economic characteristics and lifestyles, as well as its considerable population. This paper evaluates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water consumption, and land appropriation resulting from shifting the Chinese population to healthy diets. We quantify the environmental impacts of individual diets using the latest available data of China Health and Nutrition Survey (2011), and compare them with the environmental impacts of suggested healthy dietary patterns in accordance with the 2016 Chinese Dietary Guidelines. If all Chinese would follow healthy diets rather than their current diets revealed in the survey, GHG emissions, water consumption, and land occupation would increase by 7.5% (63.9 Mt CO 2 e annually), 53.5% (510 billion m 3 ), and 54.2% (1256 billion m 2 ), respectively. Urban and high-income groups have higher diet-related environmental impacts but could achieve less additional environmental impacts when moving to healthier diets. These findings indicate an expense of increased GHG emissions, and consumption of water and land resources in improving health. They also highlight the need to focus on the effects of improved economic conditions and urbanization in reconciling environmental impacts and human nutritional adequacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-526
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 15-Jun-2019


  • China, Diet change, greenhouse gases, Land, Malnutrition, Water

ID: 81273168