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Diet Quality and Water Scarcity: Evidence from a Large Australian Population Health Survey

1
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Agriculture and Food, Clayton South, VIC 3168, Australia
2
Department of Agricultural Economics, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa
3
CSIRO Health and Biosecurity, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2019, 11(8), 1846; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081846
Received: 12 June 2019 / Revised: 5 August 2019 / Accepted: 7 August 2019 / Published: 9 August 2019
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Abstract

There is widespread interest in dietary strategies that lower environmental impacts. However, various forms of malnutrition are also widely prevalent. In a first study of its kind, we quantify the water-scarcity footprint and diet quality score of a large (>9000) population of self-selected adult daily diets. Here, we show that excessive consumption of discretionary foods—i.e., energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods high in saturated fat, added sugars and salt, and alcohol—contributes up to 36% of the water-scarcity impacts and is the primary factor differentiating healthier diets with lower water-scarcity footprint from poorer quality diets with higher water-scarcity footprint. For core food groups (fruits, vegetables, etc.), large differences in water-scarcity footprint existed between individual foods, making difficult the amendment of dietary guidelines for water-scarcity impact reduction. Very large reductions in dietary water-scarcity footprint are possible, but likely best achieved though technological change, product reformulation and procurement strategies in the agricultural and food industries. View Full-Text
Keywords: dietary guidelines; discretionary food; life cycle assessment; sustainable diet; sustainable food production; sustainable food systems; water footprint; water use dietary guidelines; discretionary food; life cycle assessment; sustainable diet; sustainable food production; sustainable food systems; water footprint; water use
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Ridoutt, B.G.; Baird, D.; Anastasiou, K.; Hendrie, G.A. Diet Quality and Water Scarcity: Evidence from a Large Australian Population Health Survey. Nutrients 2019, 11, 1846.

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