Integrating Nutritional Benefits and Impacts in a Life Cycle Assessment Framework: A US Dairy Consumption Case Study
Although essential to understand the overall health impact of a food or diet, nutrition is not usually considered in food-related life cycle assessments (LCAs). As a case study to demonstrate comparing environmental and nutritional health impacts we investigate United States dairy consumption. Nutritional impacts, interpreted from disease burden epidemiology, are compared to health impacts from more traditional impacts (e.g. due to exposure to particulate matter emissions across the life cycle) considered in LCAs. After accounting for the present consumption, data relating dairy intake to public health suggest that low-fat milk leads to nutritional benefits up to one additional daily serving in the American diet. We demonstrate the importance of considering the whole-diet and nutritional trade-offs. The estimated health impacts of various dietary scenarios may be of comparable magnitude to environmental impacts suggesting the need for investigating the balance between dietary public health advantages and disadvantages in comparison to environmental impacts.