Fatter Population Threatens World Food Supply

Posted June 29th, 2012 at 5:21 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

Turns out obesity isn’t just a health issue;  all of that overeating could seriously cut into the future world food supply.

According to a new study from Great Britain, if the current worldwide obesity epidemic continues unabated, maintaining enough food to feed the world could actually become a much more serious challenge.

Right now, the world’s population is over seven billion, and growing.  The more people there are, the more food and resources are needed.

According to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine,  the weight of the human population should be taken into consideration – in addition to the number of people in the world -  when determining future food security and environmental sustainability.

Using data from various studies, researchers determined the world’s adult population weighs 287 million metric tons, or 287 billion kilograms.

Separately, we each weigh an average of 62 kilograms, but that average varies from country to country.

Researchers estimate 15 million of that 287 metric tons is due to those who are overweight, while 3.5 million metric tons are due to obesity.

North Americans have the highest body mass of any continent, according to the study, with an average body mass of 80.7kg.

While North America has only about six percent of the world’s population, it contributes 34 percent of the world’s biomass.

Asians, on the other hand, whose average weight is 58 kilograms, make up around 61 percent of the world’s population, but they’re only responsible for roughly 13 percent of the world’s biomass.

Among nations,  the United States came in as the “heaviest” country, while Eritrea was the “lightest”.

The researchers also looked at how those who are overweight and obese impact the total weight and averages.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between being overweight and obese.

You’re considered to be overweight when you weigh more than the weight that is appropriate for your height and bone structure or have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or greater.

If you have BMI of 30 or more, medical experts consider you to be obese.

Experts say that up to half of all food that is eaten is burned up by various physical activities.  But as your weight rises, your energy requirements increase as well, because it takes more energy to move a heavy body.

Even when at rest, those who have a bigger body mass burn more energy.

So, the bigger you are, the more energy you’ll need; the more energy you need means you must eat more; the more food eaten by a growing world population could  then, in turn, impact affect food supplies and future food security.

Soybeans being harvested (Photo: Jake was here via Wikimedia Commons)

Soybeans being harvested (Photo: Jake was here via Wikimedia Commons)

The domino effect of a heavier populace can also affect environmental sustainability.  Because in order to feed, cool or warm and transport a heavier population, more natural resources, such as fossil-fuels, will be needed and consumed.

Sarah Walpole, a practicing medical doctor who co-authored the study,  worries people from developing nations, who tend to be thinner than those in developed countries, will be most at risk of food insecurity.

“If our global consumption for food or our demand for food are increasing, it going to be those poor populations that feel the impact most,” she says.

One of the areas researchers want to study next is the impact the global child population has on the world’s total human biomass.

Dr. Walpole joins us on this week’s radio edition of “Science World.”  Check out the right column for scheduled air-times or listen to the interview with Dr. Walpole below.

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Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include:

 

One Response to “Fatter Population Threatens World Food Supply”

  1. lulu Dominic says:

    This is simply another” false debate”: The developed and industrial world throws away around 40% of food. In Africa we lose around 30% of our crops for various reasons. In short, the obese could eat all they want and there would still be food to go around for everybody.

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