Environmental Nutrition

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, DrPH

Joan Sabate, MD, DrPH

Joan 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

Sam Soret, PhD

Sam is 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 serves as Director of the School’s Center for Community Resilience and as Associate Dean for Research. His key interests focus on the interrelations between agriculture, the food system and climate change.  Sam is the co-Director of the Environmental Nutrition research program at Loma Linda University. More>>
Helen Harwatt, PhD

Helen Harwatt, PhD

Helen 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, DrPH

Alfredo Mejia, DrPH

Alfredo 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 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

Assessing the sustainability of food systems.
Environmental sustainability and nutritional analysis of dietary patterns and foods, including plant-based alternatives to meat.
Seminars/lectures on sustainable diets/food systems.
Analysis of the food system in relation to climate change mitigation targets, resilience and food security.

Publications & Projects

Publications

Forthcoming Journal Publications

  • Greenhouse gas emissions generated by tofu production: a case study

Current Projects

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.

Presentations

The environmental impacts of our dietary choices – sample slides.

May 2015. Overview of sustainable diets for local community group – sample slides, November 2014

Fellowships in Environmental Nutrition

Background

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.

Doctoral Fellowships

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. Interested applications should contact Professor Joan Sabaté: jsabate@llu.edu.

Postdoctoral Fellowships
The environmental nutrition postdoctoral fellowship began in 2008. Activities have included data collection on the environmental impacts of foods, analysis of dietary patterns and writing journal articles. The award is for one year, with renewal for a second year upon successful completion of first year goals, and carries a stipend of $40,000 per year with an additional $2,500 per year for research expenses. The focus of this Fellowship Program is the interrelation among food, environment and public health. It is specifically designed to investigate the impact of food production, processing, distribution and consumption on the environment and public health. This position will focus on research and writing. A schedule of research topics and activities will be designed in line with the Environmental Nutrition agenda.
Requirements
Candidates interested in applying to the fellowship program must have a doctoral degree in a field related to the area of interest, such as environmental health, nutrition, food science, epidemiology, biology, ecology, sociology, or economics. Candidates must also have an interest in inter- and trans-disciplinary research and, ideally, a strong background or training experience in public health or in two or more of the disciplines listed above. A working knowledge of vegetarian nutrition will be helpful. Candidates should possess proven quantitative skills as well as professional English writing skills and must be eligible to work in the United States for at least two years. US citizenship is not required.
How to apply
The next fellowship is scheduled to be available from July 2016. Interested applicants should contact Professor Joan Sabaté: jsabate@llu.edu.

Media Coverage

Resources

Contact us

Contact us

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Email: envnutrition@llu.edu Phone: Amandeep Kaur (research analyst) 909 558 4300 (extension 47169) Mail: Amandeep Kaur, 1304 Nichol Hall, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, 24951 North Circle Drive, Loma Linda, California 92350, USA.

Environmental Nutrition at LLUSPH