The impact of climate change on food systems, diet quality, nutrition, and health outcomes: A narrative review

Victor Owino, Chiza Kumwenda, Beatrice Ekesa et al
Frontiers in Climate

Many consequences of climate change undermine the stability of global food systems, decreasing food security and diet quality, and exposing vulnerable populations to multiple forms of malnutrition. The emergence of pandemics such as Covid-19 exacerbate the situation and make interactions even more complex. Climate change impacts food systems at different levels, including changes in soil fertility and crop yield, composition, and bioavailability of nutrients in foods, pest resistance, and risk of malnutrition.

Sustainable and resilient food systems, coupled with climate-smart agriculture, are needed to ensure sustainable diets that are adequately diverse, nutritious, and better aligned with contextual ecosystem functions and environmental conservation. Robust tools and indicators are urgently needed to measure the reciprocal food systems-climate change interaction, that is further complicated by pandemics, and how it impacts human health.

This narrative review is based on the outcomes of a Technical Meeting organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 19 to 21 October 2020 with the aim of understanding the effectiveness of food-based approaches to improve diet quality under our rapidly changing food systems. This paper covers how food systems and dietary patterns have changed at the community level over time. The vicious and reciprocal cycle between food systems and climate change, in relation to food systems vulnerability and resilience, is discussed. The impact of these interactions on diet quality in terms of food-nutrient, nutrient deficiencies and ultimately the risk of malnutrition is also analyzed. Lastly, this paper highlights the need to develop appropriate measurement tools that can be used to monitor and evaluate the different components and levels (micro- and macro-) of the entire food system.

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