Study: Worldwide Obesity Could Drain Natural Resources as Much as Half a Billion More People

Lauren Manning via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The conclusion most certainly makes sense: There’s more people on Earth that are eating more food than ever before. This, according to a new study published in BMC Public Health, could further drain the world’s natural resources.

“Increasing population fatness could have the same implications for world food energy demands as an extra half a billion people living on the earth,” the study concluded.

Leading the Pack in Obesity

The U.S., not surprisingly, leads the pack in obesity and is among the largest drainers of food resources. Researchers used body mass indexes (BMI) and overall population to calculate biomass or overall weight of the nation. “Total biomass by age-sex group was estimated as the product of the number of people in the group and their average body mass.”

Researchers then used “extreme scenarios” to calculate usage of natural resources. They calculated the drain on natural resources if all the countries had BMIs like the U.S. versus if all the countries had BMIs like Japan. These particular countries were chosen because while they are similar socioeconomically, their obesity rates are at two different ends of the spectrum as shown in the study below.

What if the world had BMIs like the Japanese?

The average BMI in Japan in 2005 was 22.9. If all countries had the same age-sex BMI distribution as Japan, total biomass would fall by 14.6 million tonnes, a 5% reduction in global biomass or the mass equivalent of 235 million people of world average body mass in 2005.

What if the world had BMIs like the U.S.?

The average BMI in USA in 2005 was 28.7. If all countries had the same age-sex BMI distribution as the USA, total human biomass would increase by 58 million tonnes, a 20% increase in global biomass and the equivalent of 935 million people of world average body mass in 2005.

Scientists concluded:

Increasing biomass will have important implications for global resource requirements, including food demand, and the overall ecological footprint of our species.

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