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How Does Obesity Relate To Global Warming?

Posted Jun 19 2009 8:20pm
It has been known that overweight or obesity is closely linked to many medical disorders or diseases. For instance, obesity is definitely a risk factor for heart disease. Being overweight or obese, one is also at a higher risk of developing diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and certain types of cancer and so on and so forth.

Interestingly, a study even linked obesity to global warming. How did the scientists arrive at such a deduction?

The researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine believed obesity contributes to global warming too because these people need more fuel to transport them and the type of food they eat. In the paper published in the journal Lancet on May 16, 2008, the researchers worried that food shortages and higher energy prices would result, and the problem will get worse with the increase of the population.

A quick check shows that at least 400 million adults worldwide are obese. According to the projection by World Health Organization (WHO), 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese by 2015.

In the study, the researchers pegged 40 percent of the global population as obese with a body mass index (BMI) of near 30. The researchers found that obese people need 1,680 daily calories to sustain their normal energy and another 1,280 calories to maintain the daily activities. This is 18 percent more than that required by people with normal BMI.

BMI, calculated by dividing the weight (kg) by the square of the height (m), is commonly used to determine whether one is overweight or obese. The normal range falls between 18 and 25. One is considered overweight when the BMI exceeds 25 and obese when BMI exceeds 30.

As thinner people eat less and are more likely to walk instead of relying on cars, a slimmer population would reduce the demand for fuel and for agriculture. One should not forget that 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions stem from agriculture.

Perhaps, the next task for the researchers is to quantify how much a heavier population is contributing to climate change, higher fuel prices and food shortages. Meanwhile, it is important to promote normal distribution of BMI as this would help reduce global demand for, and so the price of, food.
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