Japanese Diet and Its Role in Sustainable Development

Jenn Hoskins
23rd March, 2024

Japanese Diet and Its Role in Sustainable Development

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Study from Japan shows traditional diet lowers land use and greenhouse gases
  • Eating like the Japanese also reduces acid emissions and water use
  • However, this diet may increase the use of freshwater resources
The quest for sustainable living has led researchers to explore the impact of dietary patterns on the environment. A recent study from Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts[1] has shed light on the environmental benefits associated with the traditional Japanese diet. This study is particularly relevant as it ties in with global efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, and more. The traditional Japanese diet, known for its health benefits, has been previously linked to lower obesity rates and increased life expectancy[2]. It is characterized by high consumption of rice, fish, soybeans, vegetables, and eggs, and low consumption of wheat, milk, and red meat. This dietary pattern, scored using the Traditional Japanese Diet Score (TJDS), has now been examined for its environmental footprint. The study assessed the environmental impact of the Japanese diet by evaluating land use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, acidifying and eutrophying emissions, and water use across 151 countries. The researchers used existing data on food and energy supplies by country, along with environmental indicators for each food group, to calculate the TJDS and its association with these environmental factors. Results indicated that higher adherence to the TJDS was associated with lower land use, GHG emissions, acidifying emissions, and water use. Notably, these findings align with previous research[3] that highlighted the potential for sustainable and culturally acceptable dietary patterns in Japan, which could improve nutrient intake and reduce diet-related GHGE while being cost-effective. Moreover, this study builds upon the understanding that the traditional Japanese diet could play a role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease[4] and certain cancers[5], including breast cancer. The reduction in red and processed meat, as well as sugar and sweetened beverages, as suggested by the TJDS, not only supports health but is also environmentally favorable. The longitudinal analysis confirmed the negative association between TJDS and environmental impacts over a decade, from 2010 to 2020. This suggests that the benefits of the traditional Japanese diet on the environment are consistent over time, reinforcing the diet's role in promoting sustainability. In conclusion, the study from Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts provides evidence that the traditional Japanese diet, which is both healthy and culturally rooted, could significantly contribute to reducing the environmental impact of our food choices. While the study acknowledges that adherence to the TJDS may increase freshwater use, the overall environmental benefits suggest that incorporating elements of the Japanese diet could be a step towards achieving a more sustainable future. This research not only reinforces the health advantages of the Japanese dietary pattern but also positions it as an environmentally responsible choice, offering a model for other nations seeking to align their dietary guidelines with sustainability goals.



Main Study

1) Traditional japanese diet score and the sustainable development goals by a global comparative ecological study.

Published 21st March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Why has Japan become the world's most long-lived country: insights from a food and nutrition perspective.


3) Exploring culturally acceptable, nutritious, affordable and low climatic impact diet for Japanese diets: proof of concept of applying a new modelling approach using data envelopment analysis.


4) Association between adherence to the Japanese diet and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study.


5) A longitudinal association between the traditional Japanese diet score and incidence and mortality of breast cancer-an ecological study.


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