A new study in the Lancet points to the effects of increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on the global threat of zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency is currently responsible for large burdens of global disease, and the populations who are at highest risk of zinc deficiency also receive most of their dietary zinc from crops. As Natasha Geiling points out below, zinc helps the immune system function properly, aids in the creation of proteins and DNA, and plays a crucial role in development and growth in infants. "Food crops such as wheat, rice, barley, soy, and field peas, which serve as an important source of dietary zinc for billions of people around the world, have recently been shown to contain lower concentrations of zinc and other nutrients when grown under open field conditions at a concentration of carbon dioxide the world is expected to experience by 2050 (roughly 550 ppm)," the study finds. Nutritionalists and other professionals in the health field can help communicate these concerns within their field and be a positive voice for change. Climate for Health offers resources and can guide you to become more involved.
By Natasha Geiling I Jul 16, 2015
The world already has a hard time properly allocating crucial nutrients to its 7.125 billion residents — and a new study published in The Lancet Wednesday suggests that global warming is only going to increase that challenge.
According to the World Health Organization, zinc deficiency currently impacts a little more than thirty percent of humans across the globe. An important mineral found in shellfish, red meat, seeds, legumes, and cereal grains, zinc helps the immune system function properly, aids in the creation of proteins and DNA, and plays a crucial role in development and growth in infants. A lack of zinc in the diet can cause diarrhea, exacerbate malaria and pneumonia, and lead to death. In fact, zinc deficiency is estimated to cause more than 450,000 deaths in children under the age of five each year, accounting for 4.4 percent of global childhood deaths.
New research, led by Samuel Myers, a senior research scientist at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, suggests that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere will only make global zinc deficiency worse, putting some 138 million people at risk of malnutrition by the year 2050.
The researchers arrived at that conclusion through a meta-analysis of a variety of different data sets. They first looked at zinc consumption in 188 countries under ambient CO2 concentrations, based on data from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Then, they looked at data from previous experiments that grew crops under varying CO2 concentrations to see how their nutrient makeup was impacted — those experiments showed reduced levels of key nutrients, including zinc, when crops like wheat, barley, rice, and soy are grown in high concentrations of CO2.
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