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Excessive Food Consumption in Irish Adults: Implications for Climatic Sustainability and Public Health


  • McCarthy, Sinéad N.
  • O’Rourke, Daniel
  • Kearney, John
  • McCarthy, Mary
  • Henchion, Maeve
  • Hyland, J. J.


Introduction : Food consumption accounts for 20-30% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Certain foods have higher emissions than others and are often the target of policy makers to reduce greenhouse gasses associated with food consumption. However, food policy should aim to address both climatic and health imbalances concurrently and hence have more significant impact. Targeting excessive food consumption as a mitigation strategy for greenhouse gas emissions may also have a concurrent impact on the global obesity epidemic Objective: To evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) associated with the excessive food and energy intake in Irish adults. Methods: A secondary analysis of nationally representative data from the National Adult Food & Nutrition Survey, 2011, was conducted. The demographic characteristics, food consumption patterns and diet-associated GHGEs were compared across categories of increasing levels of relative energy intake. One-way ANOVA (p<0.05) was used to determine the level of significance across quintiles of relative energy intake. Results: Different dietary patterns were evident between the categories of varying relative energy intake. A strong positive correlation (r = 0.736; p< 0.001) was evident between dietary GHGE and the EI relative to one’s requirements. In Irish diets, animal products contributed to a large proportion of total dietary GHGE but accounted for much less of overall EI. Plant-based foods were the lowest contributors to total GHGE. When constructing strategies to mitigate dietary carbon emissions, it is important to carefully consider all aspects of sustainability. The exclusion of certain food groups from the average diet may provoke health, economical and/or cultural repercussions. An adherence to the Irish dietary guidelines, including a decrease of EI, can viably attenuate dietary environmental impact Conclusions: The results offer further evidence to support the hypothesis that excessive energy consumption and the overconsumption of certain food types are detrimental to overall diet-associated carbon emissions levels, and that adhering to the current Irish dietary guidelines can potentially lower dietary related GHGE.

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  • McCarthy, Sinéad N. & O’Rourke, Daniel & Kearney, John & McCarthy, Mary & Henchion, Maeve & Hyland, J. J., 2018. "Excessive Food Consumption in Irish Adults: Implications for Climatic Sustainability and Public Health," 166th Seminar, August 30-31, 2018, Galway, West of Ireland 276208, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:eaa166:276208
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.276208

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    1. Vieux, F. & Darmon, N. & Touazi, D. & Soler, L.G., 2012. "Greenhouse gas emissions of self-selected individual diets in France: Changing the diet structure or consuming less?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 91-101.
    2. Tukker, Arnold & Goldbohm, R. Alexandra & de Koning, Arjan & Verheijden, Marieke & Kleijn, René & Wolf, Oliver & Pérez-Domínguez, Ignacio & Rueda-Cantuche, Jose M., 2011. "Environmental impacts of changes to healthier diets in Europe," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(10), pages 1776-1788, August.
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    Agricultural and Food Policy; Environmental Economics and Policy;

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