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Eating Too Much? You May As Well Be Running a Hummer in Your Kitchen; And Can Pollutants Make Us Fat?

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Friday, April 24, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Obesity is bad for the planet, according to a study in the April 19 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The authors, Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, say that because food production contributes substantially to global warming, slim individuals and lean populations have lighter carbon footprints than those who are overweight. For instance, the school’s press release on their work says, a slim population, such as is seen in Vietnam, consumes 20 percent less food and produces fewer greenhouse gases than a population in which 40 percent of the people are obese. The researchers estimate that a population of one billion slim people would produce 1,000 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in a year than a population of a billion overweight people. Heavy people not only eat more, it takes more energy to transport their weight, and they are likely to drive more. And if they like the burgers and sugary drinks so many US consumers enjoy, their food choices are energy-expensive too.

Obesity may be bad for the environment, but things in the environment may also promote obesity.

Researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, have found that exposure to chemicals in plastics may be linked to childhood obesity. In a long term study of 400 girls, aged 9 to 11, in East Harlem, researchers found that the heaviest girls had the highest levels of phthalates in their urine. An April 17 New York Times story by Jennifer 8. Lee explains that phthalates, which are used to make plastic pliable, disrupt endocrines—the bodily chemicals that affect glands and hormones and regulate many bodily functions. Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a lead researcher in the study, thinks endocrine disrupters may be a more important factor in obesity than has previously been recognized.

Al over the world, Edwards and Roberts write, humans are getting fatter. "When it comes to food consumption,” the authors assert, "moving around in a heavy body is like driving around in a gas guzzler.”

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  environment  health 

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