Nutrition ecology: the contribution of vegetarian diets

Claus Leitzmann
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003, 78 (3 Suppl): 657S-659S
Nutrition ecology is an interdisciplinary scientific discipline that encompasses the entire nutrition system, with special consideration of the effects of nutrition on health, the environment, society, and the economy. Nutrition ecology involves all components of the food chain, including production, harvesting, preservation, storage, transport, processing, packaging, trade, distribution, preparation, composition, and consumption of food, as well as disposal of waste materials. Nutrition ecology has numerous origins, some of which go back to antiquity. The introduction of industrialized agriculture and mass animal production gave rise to various negative influences on the environment and health. Food quality is determined in part by the quality of the environment. The environment, in turn, is influenced by food consumption habits. Research shows that vegetarian diets are well suited to protect the environment, to reduce pollution, and to minimize global climate changes. To maximize the ecologic and health benefits of vegetarian diets, food should be regionally produced, seasonally consumed, and organically grown. Vegetarian diets built on these conditions are scientifically based, socially acceptable, economically feasible, culturally desired, sufficiently practicable, and quite sustainable.


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