Staying slim is good for the environment

Obesity has Da Vinci would have seen it ?These are the conclusions of a recent study carried out by two specialists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

This was the topic of an interesting article my dad sent me on how obesity is bad for climate change. That’s right, on top of endangering the patient itself, obesity endangers the whole planet.

Indeed this medical condition means that more food is produced to answer the demand as well as more greenhouse gases emissions as cars are more used.

The Guardian noted:

(…) a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology examines what the UK’s energy consumption would be if the average weight of the population was returned to how it was in the 1970s. The study found that due to the increased number of people today who are overweight, the UK consumes 19% more food than it did 40 years ago, which equates to an extra 60 mega tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. It also included the extra transport-related emissions caused by the increased obesity.

“This is not really just about obese people, the distribution of the whole population is what’s important,” said Dr Phil Edwards, the study leader and researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Everybody is getting a bit fatter. Staying slim is good for health and for the environment.”

(…) But the fat finger of blame seems to be directed at our ever-increasing meat consumption. It’s certainly not a secret that the global livestock herd is causing considerable damage to the environment, as was first widely publicised in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report in 2006.

Science Daily bring us more interesting data:

Because food production is a major contributor to global warming, a lean population, such as that seen in Vietnam, will consume almost 20% less food and produce fewer greenhouse gases than a population in which 40% of people are obese (close to that seen in the USA today), according to Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Population Health.

Transport-related emissions will also be lower because it takes less energy to transport slim people. The researchers estimate that a lean population of 1 billion people would emit 1.0 GT (1,000 million tonnes) less carbon dioxide equivalents per year compared with a fat one.

In nearly every country in the world, average body mass index (BMI) is rising. Between 1994 and 2004 the average male BMI in England increased from 26 to 27.3, with the average female BMI rising from 25.8 to 26.9 (about 3 kg – or half a stone – heavier). Humankind – be it Australian, Argentinian, Belgian or Canadian – is getting steadily fatter.

‘When it comes to food consumption, moving about in a heavy body is like driving around in a gas guzzler’, say the authors. ‘The heavier our bodies become the harder and more unpleasant it is to move about in them and the more dependent we become on our cars.

Staying slim is good for health and for the environment. We need to be doing a lot more to reverse the global trend towards fatness, and recognise it as a key factor in the battle to reduce emissions and slow climate change’, they conclude.

6 thoughts on “Staying slim is good for the environment”

  1. With food, I think the thing to remember is that different foods have different impacts. Basically, from least impact to most, it goes,

    Fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, flour, etc
    Baked goods, juice, milk, eggs
    Prepared meals, tinned food, yoghurt and cheese, wine and beer
    Dense goods, meat and fish, salt, stocks and spices, spirits, detergents

    with each having about 2.5 times the impact of the previous one. If you have a look at this photoessay extract from a book about what the world eats, what you notice with the different families from around the world is that,

    – when they’re poor, they eat lots of grains, legumes and fruit and vegetables
    – as soon as they get some money, they buy fizzy drinks
    – as they get richer, next they buy meat & fish
    – as they get richer still, lots of colourful plastic packets (prepared food) appear, and more meat still

    It’s pretty obvious which diets have the highest impacts. If you eat a lot of meat & fish and processed foods, you’ll have a higher impact than if you eat little of those and more fresh fruit and vegetables, and wholegrains.

    A lower-impact diet tends to be better for your health, too. Not always – it’s quite possible to be an unhealthy vegetarian, just as it’s common to be an unhealthy meat/processed foods eater. But if you eat a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, grains and legumes, with a little bit of meat, fish, and dairy, you should be alright.

    Of course, just as more than half of people think they have above average intelligence, driving ability and so on, so too will most people think, “I don’t eat that much meat and processed foods.” Maybe we all need to write down what we eat in a week, then gather it all together and photograph it like those families in the link above. Most of us I think will be surprised…

  2. It was done. I remember reading a Photo magazine issue where average families of several countries photographed what they ate for a week.

    It was amazing. If you want I may have a look in my archives to get back those pictures…

    Otherwise, thanks for your once again most interesting comment. 😀

  3. I linked to that, I think you are scanning, not reading today 🙂

    I was suggesting that anyone who thinks, “oh I don’t eat much meat and processed stuff” should try doing it 🙂

  4. ah crap, sorry Kiashu. Getting up, checking the news and the comment you posted last night and missing the link…

    edit: amazed at the bottle of Coca Cola and other sodas… So many bottles for so many calories. No wonder people are getting fatter.

    The overall amount of processed food with packaging and so on is amazing. These pictures really exemplify your argument. 🙂

  5. It will be interesting to see reactions to this research. There are so many folks who do not see the connection between what they’re putting in their mouths and their weight. With U.S. courts recognizing obesity as a disability under ADA as well as Social Security, it’s easier to avoid responsibility for one’s own food eating habits. I agree with Kiashu, if we took a picture of the food we eat in a week, we’d be surprised – including me. ~ Daryl

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