Examining the interrelationships between our food choices, our environment and our health.
Environmental Nutrition at LLUSPH
Environmental Nutrition is currently the focus of an interdisciplinary academic research group at the School of Public Health, Loma Linda University. The information on our website is relevant to students, researchers, not for profit organizations and other interested groups.
View the groundbreaking paper that proposes Environmental Nutrition: A new frontier for Public Health. Published online, March 17th 2016. Abstract. See the paper in the May 2016 print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
What is environmental nutrition?
Environmental Nutrition emerged from a recognition that the complex interactions within the food system related to health and environment need to be considered simultaneously. Environmental Nutrition goes beyond the scope of current discussions on sustainable diets and systematically considers the interrelationships within food systems to necessarily incorporate a complete understanding. Nourishing a growing population while balancing what the Earth can provide and absorb is increasingly recognized as a major global challenge. The conventional food system threatens our health and overall well-being with increased air and water pollution, toxic chemical exposure, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, soil erosion, climate change inducing greenhouse gas emissions, and loss of biodiversity. Widely held consensus among medical and public health professionals finds that today’s typical ‘diet of affluence’ contributes to a range of costly health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and dementia, other neurodegenerative disorders, and various kinds of cancer. Environmental nutrition, therefore, is a useful tool for critically analyzing the wide-reaching environmental, social, and health impacts of industrial agriculture.
What are sustainable diets?
By definition, a ‘sustainable’ diet should use resources without exhausting or destroying them, and hence should be able to be sustained in the long term. This includes staying within the Earth’s biophysical capacity, i.e. what the planet can sustain in terms of resource provision and absorption of wastes, including greenhouse gas emissions. The growing body of research on sustainable diets has been recognized by a variety of international bodies including the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The FAO define sustainable diets as “those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.” The food system is currently a major contributor to severe environmental problems, such as biodiversity loss and climate change. This contribution is envisaged to increase, given the global shift in food consumption patterns towards the ‘western’ palette of high animal products. Addressing consumption patterns, food waste and resource intensive methods of agricultural production are considered crucial for enabling wide scale adoption of sustainable diets.
Who we are
The environmental nutrition team brings together a wide range of experience, skills and specialties. As a core strength, the team combines a range of disciplines including epidemiology, nutrition, environmental health, biology, and environmental science. Our skills include environmental assessment, food life cycle assessment, statistical analysis, and Geographical Information Systems applications.
Joan Sabate, MD, DrPHJoan has a doctoral degree in public health nutrition, and has worked in the area of Environmental Nutrition for over 10 years. He has a broad, multidisciplinary background including nutrition, epidemiology, and statistics. He was Chair of the nutrition department at Loma Linda University for 17 years and led many research projects to completion. Currently, Joan is the co-Director of the Environmental Nutrition research program at Loma Linda University. More>>
Sam Soret, PhD
Dr. Sam Soret was a founder of the environmental nutrition project. He was an environmental health scientist with a broad background in biology, air quality and public health, with specific training and expertise in medical geography and spatial analysis. He served as Director of the School’s Center for Community Resilience and as Associate Dean for Research. His key interests focused on the interrelations between agriculture, the food system and climate change. Sam was the co-Director of the Environmental Nutrition research program at Loma Linda University. Sam passed away in August 2016, but his positive impact on the climate still lives on.
Helen Harwatt, PhDHelen is currently an Environmental Nutrition research fellow at the Loma Linda University. For more than a decade, Helen has contributed to numerous environmental sustainability projects, with an emphasis on the climate change mitigation potential of behavioral change. Helen’s key interests focus on the potential contribution of sustainable diets to climate change mitigation, and assessing the sustainability of food systems from both environmental and nutritional perspectives, simultaneously. More>>
Alfredo Mejia, DrPHAlfredo currently serves as Associate Professor at the Department of Public Health, Nutrition and Wellness, Andrews University. As part of the environmental nutrition team, he leads the life cycle assessment component. Alfredo is an expert user of the leading life cycle assessment software for professionals, SimaPro. He is currently leading the life cycle assessment of a large range of meat substitute products, including the data collection and analysis. More>>
William Ripple, PhD
William is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology at Oregon State University, specializing in carnivores, mammal ecology, and biodiversity conservation. Additionally, he is an adjunct professor in Environmental Nutrition at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health. He is a widely published researcher, lecturer, and prominent international figure in the field of ecology. Dr. Ripple also studies and publishes research about the environmental and climate effects of livestock and human carnivory (meat eating by humans). More>>
What we offer
Our key specialty services
Publications & Projects
- Sabaté, J, Harwatt, H. and Soret, S. Environmental Nutrition: A new frontier for Public Health. American Journal of Public Health. Published online, March 17th 2016. Abstract.
- Marlow, H. Harwatt, H. Soret, S and Sabaté, J. Comparing the water, energy, pesticide and fertilizer usage for the production of foods consumed by different dietary types in California. Public Health Nutrition 2015; 18 (13) pp 2425-2432.
- Machovina, B., Feeley, K. J., & Ripple, W. J. (2015). Biodiversity conservation: The key is reducing meat consumption. Science of the Total Environment, 536, 419-431.
- McAlpine, C. A., Seabrook, L. M., Ryan, J. G., Feeney, B. J., Ripple, W. J., Ehrlich, A. H., & Ehrlich, P. R. (2015). Transformational change: creating a safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society, 20(1).
- Batchelor, J. L., Ripple, W. J., Wilson, T. M., & Painter, L. E. (2015). Restoration of Riparian Areas Following the Removal of Cattle in the Northwestern Great Basin. Environmental management, 55(4), 930-942.
- Ripple, W. J., Newsome, T. M., Wolf, C., Dirzo, R., Everatt, K. T., Galetti, M., … & Macdonald, D. W. (2015). Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores. Science Advances, 1(4), e1400103.
- Soret, S. Mejia, A. Batech, M. Jaceldo-Siegl, K. Harwatt, H and Sabaté, J. (2014) Climate change mitigation and health effects of varied dietary patterns in real-life settings throughout North America. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100: 476S-482S.
- Sabaté, J and Soret, S. (2014) Sustainability of plant-based diets: Back to the future. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition;100:476S-482S.
- Sabaté, J. Sranacharoenpong, K. Harwatt, H. Wien, M. and Soret, S. (2014) The Environmental Cost of Protein Food Choices. Public Health Nutrition, Nov 6:1-7.
- Ripple W.J., Estes, J.A., Beschta, R.L. Wilmers, C.C., Richie, E.G., Hebblewhite, M., et al. 2014. Status and ecological effects of the world’s largest carnivores. Science. 343: 1241484
- Ripple, W. J., Smith, P., Haberl, H., Montzka, S.A., McAlpine, D., Boucher, D.H. 2014. Ruminants, climate change, and climate policy. Nature Climate Change. 4:2-4.
- Sabaté, J and Hawkins I (2013). Defining “sustainable” and “healthy” diets in an era of great environmental concern and increased prevalence of chronic diseases. Letter to the editor in response to Macdiarmid JI, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 2013; 97:1151.
- Marlow, HJ. Hayes,WK. Soret, S. Carter, RL. Schwab, ER. and Sabaté, J (2009) Diet and the environment: does what you eat matter? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89, 1699S-1703S.
- Marlow, H (2006) The environmental impact of dietary choice and agriculture in California. Doctoral thesis dissertation. Loma Linda University.
- Reijnders, L and Soret, S (2003) Quantification of the environmental impact of different dietary protein choices. The American journal of clinical nutrition 78, 664s-668s.
Forthcoming Journal Publications
- Greenhouse gas emissions generated by tofu production: a case study
Environmental and health assessment of dietary patterns within the Adventist Health Study We have privileged access to the Adventist Health Study data, which contains longitudinal health and dietary information for more than 96,000 individuals. This allows us to simultaneously assess the health and environmental outcomes related to diverse dietary patterns. We consider this line of inquiry to be our unique niche.
Environmental impacts and nutritional assessment of plant-based meat alternatives We have proprietary production data from 3 manufacturers for more than 35 products that are designed to replace meat in the diet. For each product, we are assessing the environmental impacts and nutritional qualities. Life cycle assessment software (SimaPro) is being used to estimate the inputs (water, energy and land) and outputs (greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and acidification), for each product. We will directly compare the environmental and nutritional aspects with meat products.
Fellowships in Environmental Nutrition
There is substantial evidence linking agricultural production and environmental degradation. Growing public awareness of various environmental issues such as global warming, toxic residues in food, and biodiversity loss has brought about a call for sustainable food production practices. Against a backdrop of an increasing world population, a key issue in future food supply is that, even in well-endowed areas, there are limits to the impact that the natural and human systems of the environment can tolerate. Thus, daily food choices by large segments of the population can ultimately result in an effect on the environment and may have public health consequences. Moreover, it has been suggested that global climate change will alter agricultural productivity across wide geographic areas, decreasing food security and resulting in changes in population food patterns.
The first Environmental Nutrition doctorate project was completed in 2006 on the natural resource requirements of dietary choices in California. There are many Environmental Nutrition topics that could be covered through doctoral studies. The program could incorporate natural and environmental sciences, nutrition and/or epidemiology. Students could study for a DrPH or a PhD and be based in the School of Public Health and/or the Department of Earth and Biological Sciences. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Sujatha Rajaram: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to apply
- Loma Linda Researchers Propose New Field of Public Health: Environmental Nutrition
- Eat less meat for a longer, greener life – Meat Free Monday
- Vegan Diet Is the Most Sustainable
- Study says global consumption of meat needs to fall
- Environmental footprint of vegan and vegetarian diets 30% lower than non-vegetarian diets say researchers ‘We have to drastically cut consumption of meat and dairy’
- A Vegetarian Diet can Increase Longevity, Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Feeding the planet in 2050 – with or without animal products?
- For want of a T-bone steak the Biosphere was lost
- Vegetarian diets produce fewer greenhouse gases and increase longevity, say new studies. Science Daily
- Vegetarian Diet Extends Lifespan, Cuts Greenhouse Emissions: Study
- Vegetarian diets lead to cleaner environment, longer lives
- Vegetarian Diet Increases Longevity And Is Good For The Environment, Study Finds
- Plant-Based Diets Produce Fewer Greenhouse Gases, Increase Longevity
- Going green – the benefits of meatless eating
- Vegetarians live 20% longer, according to massive study
- Do I have to be vegan to combat climate change?