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van Dooren C.,Netherlands Nutrition Center Voedingscentrum | Douma A.,Netherlands Nutrition Center Voedingscentrum | Aiking H.,VU University Amsterdam | Vellinga P.,VU University Amsterdam
Ecological Economics | Year: 2017

The aim of this study is to explore the relations between the climate impact of food products and their nutritional characteristics, in order to propose a nutrient density index that quantifies these relations. Our study is based on the nutritional characteristics of the 403 most consumed food products in the Netherlands. Metabolic energy density,1 Definitions: Energy density is the total metabolic energy per weight unit of a food product (total kcal/100 g product). This value is determined by the proportion of the different macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) and the water content. Nutrient Density: Dietary Guidelines for Americans (USDA, 2005, 2010) define nutrient-dense foods as those ‘that provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) and relatively few calories.’ Examples are whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and all legumes, vegetables, and fruits (WHO, 2003). NRFx.y: Nutrient Rich Foods index, including x nutrients which should be encouraged and y nutrients which should be limited (Drewnowski, 2009). Essential fatty acids (EFA) are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and consist of two groups: n − 3 and n − 6 fatty acids. Linoleic acid (LA) is an n − 6. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are n − 3. EPA and DHA together are known as fish fatty acids. ‘Nutritional characteristics’ are the nutritional values of food products that are associated with increased or reduced health risks of the diet. These can be specific nutrients, energy density, nutrient density, and even category of a specific food group (e.g., fish). Fruiting vegetables: A vegetable with a pulpy, seed-rich body which grows on a vine. nutrient density (Nutrient Rich Foods index: NRF) and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGEs) of the products were calculated. Low GHGE intensity per 100 g correlated with positive nutritional characteristics of food products. This is true for low energy density, and high nutrient density, expressed as the well-established NRF9.3 index. This index was improved to include the contribution of food products to GHGEs. GHGEs of product groups correlate more strongly with the proposed Sustainable Nutrient Rich Foods index (SNRF). This SNRF summarizes six distinctive nutrients (three which should be encouraged and three limited), as well as (metabolic) energy density. Including such an index on food product labels could assist consumers in making better informed food choices. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.

van Dooren C.,Netherlands Nutrition Center Voedingscentrum | van Dooren C.,VU University Amsterdam | Tyszler M.,Blonk Consultants | Kramer G.F.H.,Blonk Consultants | Aiking H.,VU University Amsterdam
Sustainability (Switzerland) | Year: 2015

Background: This study aims to find diets with low price and low climate impact, yet fulfilling all nutritional requirements. Methods: Optimization by linear programming. The program constrains 33 nutrients to fulfill Dutch dietary requirements. In a second cycle, the upper boundary for climate impact through greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) is set to 1.6 kg carbon dioxide equivalents/day (CO2eq). In a third cycle, the costs are set on €2.50 as a constraint. The objective function of the optimization maximized the most consumed food products (n = 206) for male and female adults separately (age 31-50). Results: A diet of 63 popular and low priced basic products was found to deliver all required nutrients at an adequate level for both male and female adults. This plant-based, carbohydrate and fiber-rich diet consists mainly of wholegrain bread, potatoes, muesli, open-field vegetables and fruits. The climate impact of this diet is very low (1.59 kg CO2eq/day) compared to the average Dutch diet. By constraining costs, a low carbon diet of €2.59/day is possible. Conclusions: A two-person diet consisting of 63 products and costing €37 per week can simultaneously be healthy and yet have half the average climate impact. Linear programming is a promising tool to combine health and sustainability on both societal and individual levels. © 2015 by the authors.

Van Dooren C.,Netherlands Nutrition Center Voedingscentrum | Marinussen M.,Blonk Consultants | Blonk H.,Blonk Consultants | Aiking H.,VU University Amsterdam | Vellinga P.,VU University Amsterdam
Food Policy | Year: 2014

The objective of this study was to explore the synergies between nutritionally healthy and ecologically sustainable diets. The aim was to explore the possibilities for future integrated dietary guidelines that support consumers to make informed dietary choices based on both ecological and nutritional values. We developed a score system for health and sustainability. Subsequently, we tested six different diets: current average Dutch, official 'recommended' Dutch, semi-vegetarian, vegetarian, vegan and Mediterranean. For the sustainability rating, we used the Life Cycle Assessment, measuring the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and land use (LU). For the health rating, we used ten nutritional indicators. By comparing the overall scores we found that the consumption of meat, dairy products, extras, such as snacks, sweets, pastries, and beverages, in that order, are largely responsible for low sustainability scores. Simultaneously, these food groups contribute to low health scores. We developed a matrix that illustrates that the health and sustainability scores of all six diets go largely hand in hand. Fig. 1 provides a visualisation of the position of the six diets in the full health and sustainability spectrum. This matrix with scores can be considered a first step in the development of a tool to measure both sustainability and health issues of specific food patterns. In selecting the diets, we examined two directions: health focus diets and the animal protein reduction diets. The Mediterranean diet is generally the health focus option with a high sustainability score. We conclude that guidelines oriented in between the two directions (i.e., semi- and pesco-vegetarian) are the option with the optimal synergy between health and sustainability. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

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