Comprehensive assessment of fruits and vegetables human health effects in a LCA context

Katerina S. Stylianou, O. Jolliet, Peter Fantke

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    Abstract

    Nutritional effects from the ‘use stage’ of food items life cycle can have
    a substantial effect on human health; yet, they are often not considered in life
    cycle assessment (LCA). In our study we explore the case of increased fruit and
    vegetable consumption, a healthy dietary option – that could result in higher
    exposures to a wide variety of pesticides – and investigate the trade-offs between associated environmental and nutritional health effects. Methods:
    We employ the Combined Nutritional and Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (CONE-LCA) framework that evaluates and compares in parallel the environmental and nutritional effects of foods expressed in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). For the environmental health assessment we consider impact categories such as global warming and particulate matter (PM) as well as chemical exposure due to pesticide residues. Global warming and PM are assessed following a traditional LCA approach. For the pesticide residue exposure, we use publically available health impact scores derived from toxicological studies of numerous pesticide active ingredients. For the nutritional assessment we focus on the various health outcomes considered in the global burden of disease that are based on epidemiological studies.
    Results and discussion: Adding one serving of fruits or vegetables to the current average diet in Europe may lead to substantial nutritional health benefits. These nutritional benefits are slightly increased when we consider substitution scenarios in which the substituted food items are associated with negative health effects, such as red meat and trans-fat. Overall environmental health impacts associated with this addition are substantially smaller compared to
    nutritional benefits in each scenario, even when considering an uncertainty factor of 400 for the impacts of pesticide residues. Conclusion: The present study illustrates the importance of considering nutritional effects of food items in LCA. Our preliminary results suggest that nutritional health effects of food ite
    ms can be substantial and comparable to environmental impacts, especially for nutritional foods such as fruits and vegetables. This approach could be used for making recommendations about sustainable diets and food choices.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting : Environmental contaminants from land to sea: continuities and interface in environmental toxicology and chemistry
    Publication date2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventSETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting: Environmental contaminants from land to sea: continuities and interface in environmental toxicology and chemistry - La Cite Nantes Congress Center, Nantes, France
    Duration: 22 May 201626 May 2016
    Conference number: 22
    http://nantes.setac.eu/nantes/home//?contentid=851

    Conference

    ConferenceSETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting
    Number22
    LocationLa Cite Nantes Congress Center
    CountryFrance
    CityNantes
    Period22/05/201626/05/2016
    Internet address

    Cite this

    Stylianou, K. S., Jolliet, O., & Fantke, P. (2016). Comprehensive assessment of fruits and vegetables human health effects in a LCA context. In SETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting: Environmental contaminants from land to sea: continuities and interface in environmental toxicology and chemistry