This paper analyses a questionnaire for measuring greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) from diets – the food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) or Meal-Q. The paper compares the Meal-Q questionnaire to a 7-day weighed food record and this is the first study validating diet-related GHGE from a FFQ.
The results suggest that Meal-Q is a useful tool for studying the link between food habits and greenhouse gas emissions in future epidemiological studies. Until now most studies on diet-related GHGE and health outcomes are based on theoretical models, and they need to be confirmed in observational studies based on habitual food consumption. The authors of this study encourage the use of dietary assessment methods validated specifically with regards to GHGE, such as the Meal-Q.
The current food system generates about 25 % of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), including deforestation, and thereby substantially contributes to the warming of the earth’s surface. To understand the association between food and nutrient intake and GHGE, we therefore need valid methods to assess diet-related GHGE in observational studies.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) studies assess the environmental impact of different food items. We linked LCA data expressed as kg carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per kg food product to data on food intake assessed by the food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) Meal-Q and validated it against a 7-day weighed food record (WFR). 166 male and female volunteers aged 20–63 years completed Meal-Q and the WFR, and their food intake was linked to LCA data.
The mean GHGE assessed with Meal-Q was 3.76 kg CO2e per day and person, whereas it was 5.04 kg CO2e using the WFR. The energy-adjusted and deattenuated Pearson and Spearman correlation coefficients were 0.68 and 0.70, respectively. Moreover, compared to the WFR, Meal-Q provided a good ranking ability, with 90 % of the participants classified into the same or adjacent quartile according to their daily average CO2e. The Bland-Altman plot showed an acceptable level of agreement between the two methods and the reproducibility of Meal-Q was high.
This is the first study validating the assessment of diet-related GHGE by a questionnaire. The results suggest that Meal-Q is a useful tool for studying the link between food habits and CO2e in future epidemiological studies.
Sjörs, C. Raposo, S. E., Sjölander, A., Bälter, O., Hedenus, F., Bälter, K. (2016), Diet-related greenhouse gas emissions assessed by a food frequency questionnaire and validated using 7-day weighed food records, Environmental Health, DOI: 10.1186/s12940-016-0110-7,
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You can find related resources in categories on theories, methods and tools, behaviour and practice theories, Consumption and diets, Climate change: mitigation as well as keyword categories consumption and production trends, dietary trends, food consumption and consumer perceptions and preferences .