Dietary intake and environmentally sustainable diets

This programme focuses on food security, particularly investigating the balance between healthy eating and minimising the environment impact of the diet, often referred to as sustainable diets.

The aim of the research is to increase our understanding of the balance between health and the environmental impact of the diet and explore people’s perceptions, opinions and willingness to adopt a more sustainable diet. The research to date has focused on climate change and greenhouse gas emission but this is being extended to include other environmental factors, such as land use requirements.

We are also investigating wider aspects of eating behaviours and determinants of food choice among the general population.

Research focus

Jennie is a Professor in Sustainable Nutrition and Health in the Public Health Nutrition Research group.  Her main research interest focuses on a new area of research relating to food security exploring dietary choices combining need for environmental sustainability within the diet with dietary recommendations for health. With global climate change and the recognition that dietary choices can have a significant impact on the environment, it is important to understanding what sustainable diets means in terms of the food choices we should be making for health, climate change (e.g. reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use), social and ethical reasons.  The aim of this research programme is to bring together these different elements of sustainability to give a greater understanding of the synergies and conflicts in terms of dietary intake and explore some of the attitudes and barriers to dietary change of consumers.   

Some of her previous research focused on methodology for the evaluation of community based nutrition related policies and interventions. With the high prevalence of obesity there is a greater need for community based (e.g. schools, workplaces) nutrition and physical activity initiatives to address this problem. The impact of national and local nutrition related public health policies on changing dietary behaviour and improving health remains unclear and part of the research programme was to develop evaluation framework for nutrition related policies and interventions.  Underpinning all this research is understanding dietary behaviours and the barriers to changing lifestyles.


Livewell 2020: A balance of healthy and sustainable food choices.
Grant holders: McNeill G, Kyle J, Macdiarmid J.
Funding body: WWF-UK (2010)
Survey of diet, influences on food choices and eating practices among children in Scotland in 2010.
Grant holders: Masson L, McNeill G, Macdiarmid J, Craig L, Bromley C.
Funding body: Food Standards Agency Scotland  (2010-2012)
Environmental Determinants of Public Health in Scotland (EDPHiS): obesity case study
Grant holders: McNeill G, Macdiarmid J, Reilly JJ, Semple S, Ellaway A, Cowie H.
Funding body: Scottish Government (Rural and Environment Research Analysis Directorate) (2009-2012)
Secondary Analysis of the Survey of Sugar Intake among Children in Scotland 2006.
Grant holders: McNeill G, Masson L, Craig L, Macdiarmid J, Holmes B.
Funding body: Food Standards Agency Scotland, 2007-2008

  • Mc Morrow, L., Ludbrook, A., Macdiarmid, JI. & Olajide, D. (2017). 'Perceived barriers towards healthy eating and their association with fruit and vegetable consumption'. Journal of Public Health, vol 39, no. 2, pp. 330-338.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdw038
    [Online] AURA: Published_JPH_Paper.pdf
  • Duthie, SJ., Duthie, GG., Russell, WR., Kyle, JAM., Macdiarmid, JI., Rungapamestry, V., Stephen, S., Megias-Baeza, C., Kaniewska, JJ., Shaw, L., Milne, L., Bremner, D., Ross, K., Morrice, P., Pirie, LP., Horgan, G. & Bestwick, CS. 'Effect of increasing fruit and vegetable intake by dietary intervention on nutritional biomarkers and attitudes to dietary change: a randomised trial'. European Journal of Nutrition, pp. 1-18.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1007/s00394-017-1469-0
    [Online] AURA: art_3A10.1007_2Fs00394_017_1469_0.pdf
  • Whybrow, S., Horgan, GW. & Macdiarmid, JI. (2017). 'Buying less and wasting less food. Changes in household food energy purchases, energy intakes and energy density between 2007 and 2012 with and without adjustment for food waste'. Public Health Nutrition, vol 20, no. 7, pp. 1248-1256.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1017/S1368980016003256
    [Online] AURA: Bristol_paper_accepted.pdf
  • Joy, EJ., Green, R., Agrawal, S., Aleksandrowicz, L., Bowen, L., Kinra, S., Macdiarmid, JI., Haines, A. & Dangour, AD. 'Dietary patterns and non-communicable disease risk in Indian adults: secondary analysis of Indian Migration Study data'. Public Health Nutrition, pp. 1-10.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1017/S1368980017000416
    [Online] AURA: dietary_patterns_and_noncommunicable_disease_risk_in_indian_...
  • McNeill, G., Masson, LF., Macdiarmid, JI., Craig, LCA., Wills, WJ. & Bromley, C. (2017). 'Socio-economic differences in diet, physical activity and leisure-time screen use among Scottish children in 2006 and 2010: are we closing the gap?'. Public Health Nutrition, vol 20, no. 6, pp. 951-958.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1017/S1368980016002949
    [Online] AURA: socioeconomic_differences_in_diet_physical_activity_and_leis...
  • De Ruiter, HR., Macdiarmid, JI., Matthews, RB., Kastner, T., Lynd, LR. & Smith, P. (2017). 'Total global agricultural land footprint associated with UK food supply 1986–2011'. Global Environmental Change, vol 43, pp. 72-81.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.01.007
Additional activities

Research briefs for the Knowledge Scotland web site


Other activities

Member, Daniel & Nicole Carasso Foundation International Scientific Committee 2012-

Current PhD students

  1. Liam McMorrow (Non-price determinants of food choice)
  2. Henri de Ruiter (healthy, sustainable diets and land use)