Researchers at the Robert Gordon University have completed a study that addresses the link between climate change and obesity.
Tue, 16 Aug 2011
Robert Gordon University
The academics suggest that global weight loss would result in a drop in the production of the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO(2)).
The study was carried out by a trio of researchers within the university's Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology (CORE). It suggests that if every obese and overweight person in the world lost 10 kilograms (or 1.58 stone), the resulting drop in greenhouse emissions would be the equivalent of 0.2% of the CO(2) emitted globally in 2007 (49.560Mt).
The calculations were based on a previous weight loss study that investigated the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on body weight, body composition and resting metabolic rate of obese volunteers with type 2 diabetes. After six months of following the diet, the volunteers' weight, fat mass, fat free mass and CO(2) production were observed.
Dr Catherine Rolland was one of the lead researchers on the study. She explains: "This decrease can be explained by the principles of respiration - the process by which organisms breathe in oxygen, which is then converted to CO(2) and then exhaled.
"CO(2) production is proportionate to body mass and heavier individuals naturally produce more than those of a healthier weight. The global obesity epidemic, therefore, has resulted in humans producing a higher volume of a major greenhouse gas."
The initial study was carried out by Phd student Ania Gryka as supervised by Dr Rolland and Professor Iain Broom, director of CORE. It was published in International Journal of Obesity on 26 July this year.
The team were inspired to investigate the link between obesity and global warming after reading a paper written by academics Ian Roberts and Robin Stott in November 2010 which put out a call for collective action from health professionals against the causes of climate change.
Dr Rolland continues: "The current climate change has been most likely caused by the increased greenhouse gas emissions, and one of the direct producers of these gases is human beings. As such, Professor Broom felt that we were in an ideal position to present our data in a way that responded to this call by Roberts and Stott.
"While the reality is that global weight loss of this magnitude is unlikely to happen anytime soon, it is clear that working towards this reduction could help meet the CO(2) emission reduction targets and be of a great benefit to global health. It also makes the point that by improving our own health we can play a part in improving the health of our planet."
The CORE team have no immediate future plans for this research, but will continue to contribute to the global understanding and management of obesity.