PhD project of Anita Frehner. The role of animal source food (ASF) in the food system deserves a special focus, since the current consumption and production patterns of ASF are responsible for a major part of environmental impacts and are also relevant for human health impacts. The aim of this PhD project is to analyse dietary patterns in a food systems context, to find better dietary patterns and production patterns than the current ones with respect to environmental and human health impacts, and to find paths to converge to these better diets. To examine this special focus, it is crucial to choose modelling approaches which are able to account for feed-food competition and interconnections between food chains.
The manifold impacts of human diets on the environment and on human health have led to recurring debates in society, about what should and should not be eaten, and the role animals can play in it. Agricultural - and especially animal - production has strong negative environmental effects, such as on soils, water, biodiversity, and climate change, for instance through land use change, pesticide use or fertiliser application. On the other hand, the link between dietary patterns and non-communicable diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer, is well established. Considering these challenges, in particular in a context of increasing consumption of animal-source food and population growth, it is important to assess how current diets perform, and to identify diets which perform better regarding environmental and health aspects.
To this end, we first need to establish a framework for an integrated assessment of environmental and health impacts of current and potential diets. Then, we want to analyse current dietary patterns in Switzerland, and explore diets which perform better with regard to di fferent environmental aspects. Finally, paths to converge to these better diets will be studied. Thus, the overall aim of this project is to explore the room for improvement towards sustainable diets, and to investigate the role of animal-source food in a planet-friendly and healthy diet.
The following research questions are posed:
1. Which framework serves best to analyse dietary patterns in a food systems context, with a focus on their impact on the environment and on human health?
2. How do widespread current dietary patterns in Switzerland perform with regard to their impacts on the environment and on human health?
3. Which potential future dietary patterns - and associated production patterns - perform better than the widespread current ones in Switzerland regarding their impact on the environment and on human health, and what role can ASF play?
4. Which dietary patterns perform better in health and environmental sustainability aspects than widespread current dietary patterns in Switzerland, while considering reluctance of humans in changing dietary habits?