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Partial substitutions of animal with plant protein foods in Canadian diets have synergies and trade-offs among nutrition … – Nature.com

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Abstract

Dietary guidelines emphasize the consumption of plant protein foods, but the implications of replacing animal with plant sources on a combination of diet sustainability dimensions are unknown. Using a combination of data from a national nutrition survey, greenhouse gas emissions from dataFIELD and relative risks from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, we assess the impact of partially substituting red and processed meat or dairy with plant protein foods in Canadian self-selected diets on nutrition, health and climate outcomes. The substitutions induced minor changes to the percentage of the population below requirements for nutrients of concern, but increased calcium inadequacy by up to 14% when dairy was replaced. Replacing red and processed meat or dairy increased life expectancy by up to 8.7 months or 7.6 months, respectively. Diet-related greenhouse gas emissions decreased by up to 25% for red and processed meat and by up to 5% for dairy replacements. Co-benefits of partially substituting red and processed meat with plant protein foods among nutrition, health and climate outcomes are relevant for reshaping consumer food choices in addressing human and planetary health.

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Fig. 1: Adherence of observed and modelled diets to CFG based on HEFI-2019.
Fig. 2: Changes to the percentage of the population below DRI for nutrients of concern for modelled dietary substitutions relative to observed diets.
Fig. 3: Changes to the percentage of the population exceeding CFG recommendations for nutrients to limit for modelled dietary substitutions relative to observed diets.

Data availability

Access to the 2015 CCHS—Nutrition microdata files is restricted to accredited researchers. To become accredited, individuals must apply for access by submitting a project proposal to Statistics Canada: https://www.statcan.gc.ca/en/microdata/data-centres/access. The authors declare that all other data used in this study are available as specified throughout the article and Supplementary Information. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

SAS and R code (health outcomes) are publicly available and can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10480135 (ref. 40).

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Acknowledgements

The analysis presented in this paper was conducted at the McGill–Concordia Laboratory of the Quebec Inter-University Centre for Social Statistics, which is part of the Canadian Research Data Centre Network. The services and activities provided by the McGill–Concordia Laboratory of the Quebec Inter-University Centre for Social Statistics are made possible by the financial or in-kind support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Statistics Canada and McGill University. The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily represent that of the Canadian Research Data Centre Network or its partners. We thank D. Garriguet of Health Canada for providing guidance with the NCI method, I. Michaud of Statistics Canada for guidance with multiple comparison testing procedures and D. Forest of Statistics Canada for vetting the data. O.A. is supported by a doctoral scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a Graduate Excellence Fellowship from McGill University and supplementary funding from a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant to S.A.B. (RGPIN-2017-05007).

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Contributions

O.A. conducted the analyses and wrote the article. O.A. and S.A.B. conceptualized the study, and analysed and interpretated the data. P.E.C. and J.M. provided code for the health analyses and aided with interpretation of the results. All authors revised and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to
Sergio A. Burgos.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

O.A., P.E.C. and J.M. declare no competing interests. S.A.B. reports receiving honoraria as a speaker in 2019 and grant funding for research unrelated to this paper from Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Food thanks Jelena Meinilä, Darel Wee Kiat Toh and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Extended Data Table 1 Intake (g/d) of animal and plant protein foods for observed and modeled diets
Extended Data Table 2 Healthy Eating Food Index-2019 total and component scores for observed and modeled diets
Extended Data Table 3 Percentage of the Canadian adult population below the Estimated Average Requirement for vitamin D
Extended Data Table 4 Percentage of the Canadian adult population below the Estimated Average Requirement for calcium
Extended Data Table 5 Percentage of the Canadian adult population below the Estimated Average Requirement for iron
Extended Data Table 6 Percentage of the Canadian adult population below the Adequate Intake for potassium
Extended Data Table 7 Percentage of the Canadian adult population above Canada’s Food Guide recommendations for sodium
Extended Data Table 8 Percentage of the Canadian adult population above Canada’s Food Guide recommendations for saturated fat
Extended Data Table 9 Percentage of the Canadian adult population above Canada’s Food Guide recommendations for free sugars

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods and Tables 1–8.

Reporting Summary

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Adherence to Canada’s Food Guide for observed and modelled diets.

Source Data Fig. 2

Changes in the percentage of the population below requirements for nutrients of concern for modelled relative to observed diets.

Source Data Fig. 3

Changes in the percentage of the population above recommendations for nutrients to limit for modelled relative to observed diets.

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Cite this article

Auclair, O., Eustachio Colombo, P., Milner, J. et al. Partial substitutions of animal with plant protein foods in Canadian diets have synergies and trade-offs among nutrition, health and climate outcomes.
Nat Food (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-024-00925-y

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  • Received: 09 January 2023

  • Accepted: 11 January 2024

  • Published: 16 February 2024

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-024-00925-y

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