Environmental and public health co-benefits of consumer switches to immunity-supporting food

28 April 2022

During COVID-19, there has been a surge in public interest for information on immunity-boosting foods. There is little scientific support for immunity-supporting properties of specific foods, but strong evidence for food choice impacts on other health outcomes (e.g. risk of non-communicable disease) and environmental sustainability. Here, we relate online recommendations for "immunity-boosting" foods across five continents to their environmental and human health impacts. More frequently recommended food items and groups are plant based and have lower land use and greenhouse gas emission impacts plus more positive health outcomes (reducing relative risks of mortality or chronic diet-related diseases) per serving of food. We identify trade-offs between environmental outcomes of increasing consumption of recommended food items, with aquatic environment impacts increasing with food recommendation frequency. People's reliance on the Internet for health information creates an opportunity to consolidate behaviour change towards consuming foods with multiple co-benefits. Our study identifies win-win options for nudging online information-seeking behaviour towards more sustainable choices for terrestrial biodiversity conservation and human health.