Environmental impact of dietary change: a systematic review

Elinor Hallström, Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, Pål Börjesson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Global food production is identified as a great threat to the environment. In combination with technical advances in agriculture, dietary change is suggested to be necessary to reduce the environmental impact of the food system. In this article a systematic review assessing the environmental impact of dietary change is performed. The aims are to i) evaluate the scientific basis of dietary scenario analysis, ii) estimate the potential environmental effects of dietary change, iii) identify methodological aspects of importance for outcome and iv) identify current gaps in knowledge. The review includes 14 peer-reviewed journal articles assessing the GHG emissions and land use demand of in total 49 dietary scenarios. The results suggest that dietary change, in areas with affluent diet, could play an important role in reaching environmental goals, with up to 50% potential to reduce GHG emissions and land use demand associated with the current diet. The choice of functional unit, system boundaries and methods for scenario development and accounting for uncertainties are methodological aspects identified to have major influence on the quality and results of dietary scenario analysis. Further understanding of dietary change as a measure for more sustainable food systems requires improved knowledge of uncertainty in dietary scenario studies, environmental impact from substitutes and complements to meat and the effect of dietary change in different groups of populations and geographical locations. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Energy Systems


  • Review
  • LCA
  • Diet
  • Scenario
  • Climate
  • Land use


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