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Environmental Impacts of the Nutrition

Giulia Ciuffreda


This paper explores the connection between the nutrition transition towards the North American dietary style and environmental depletion phenomena. Due to socio- economic dynamics, such as population growth, urbanization, globalization, and income levels, developing countries are undergoing a dietary shift towards a higher consumption of energy-dense foods, typical of the western diet.

However, energy-dense foods are cur- rently produced through industrial agriculture processes, causing noticeable stress on the environment. In particular, conventional agriculture methods result in heavy climate chang- ing gas emissions, threats to biodiversity conservation, and depletion of natural resources. Developed countries have already experienced the nutrition transition, recording a certain spread of North-American dietary habits among their population since the 50s. Developing countries are undergoing the same process now, but it seems that this nutrition transition is occurring at a much faster pace than in the past. Moreover, it involves a huge percentage of the world population. As a consequence, there is growing concern on environmental deple- tion phenomena caused by industrial farming in the production of typical North American foods.

If the demand for energy-dense food keeps increasing according to its current trend and no shift towards sustainable production systems occur, conventional farms activity will become more and more unsustainable for the planet, threatening seriously food security.

After a general introduction to the topic, we examine the existing evidence of the nutrition transition and explain its main characteristics. Then, we explore the major causes of this trend. After that, we will focus on conventional agriculture practices and their environmental impact, given the characteristics of the nutrition transition. Last, we conclude by drawing a comprehensive picture of the issue.


Nutrition transition; Sustainable diet; Environmental depletion; Intensive agriculture; Sustainable farming; Food security

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