Fatties Cause Global Warming
Ben Jackson - Environment Editor - The Sun
Apr 21, 2009

Comments by John Cartmell, MS, at end of article.

Scientists warned that the increase in big-eaters means more food production — a major cause of CO2 gas emissions warming the planet.

Overweight people are also more likely to drive, adding to environmental damage.

Dr Phil Edwards, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Moving about in a heavy body is like driving in a gas guzzler.”

Each fat person is said to be responsible for emitting a ton more of climate-warming carbon dioxide per year than a thin one - creating an extra billion tons of CO2 per year according to The World Health Organization.

The scientists say providing extra grub for them to guzzle adds to carbon emissions that heat up the world, melting polar ice caps, raising sea levels and killing rain forests.

The environmental impact of fat humans is made even worse because they are more likely to travel by car — another major cause of carbon emissions.

And researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say wealthy nations like the US and Britain are getting fatter by the decade.

Dr Phil Edwards said: “Food production accounts for about one fifth of greenhouse gases."

“We need to do a lot more to reverse the global trend towards fatness. It is a key factor in the battle to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change. It is time we took account of the amount we are eating.

This is about over-consumption by the wealthy countries. And the world demand for meat is increasing to match that of Britain and America."

“It is also much easier to get in your car and pick up a pint of milk than to take a walk.”

The study by Dr Edwards and colleague Ian Roberts is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Dr Edwards went on: “We are not just pointing the finger at fat people. All populations are getting fatter and it has an impact on the environment.  “UK health surveys estimate fatness has increased from an average body mass index of 26 to 27 in the last ten years."

Anyone with a BMI above 25 is overweight, while more than 30 is obese. A staggering 40 per cent of Americans are obese, among 300 million worldwide. Australian Professor Paul Zimmet predicted a disastrous obesity pandemic back in 2006. Sun doctor Carol Cooper said last night: “I’m not sure which came first, people getting fat and driving or the other way around. It is true fat people eat more food than average."

“A few obese people have a hormone problem, although most simply don’t use enough calories and eat too many. But making them feel guilty antagonizes them and may not help.”

John Cartmell, MS, comments

This report generates more questions than the simple answers it seeks to provide. From the ABC news report of this story at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Diet/story?id=4865889&page=1, we find the following comments:

Aside from the concerns that obese people contribute more than lean people to global warming, it should be pointed out that there is no consensus among world climatologists that global warming actually exists. According to the testimony of climatologists at the 2008 and 2009 International Conferences on Climate Change (http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=865DBE39-802A-23AD-4949-EE9098538277 and http://www.heartland.org/events/NewYork09/index.html):

As a health professional, I know the importance of not confusing symptoms with cause, and the importance of treating the cause of disease rather than only the symptoms. Whether global warming actually exists or not, it is folly to blame it on human overpopulation, and then focus on treating the symptoms (environmental impacts) while ignoring the cause (overpopulation).

As for obese people specifically contributing more to global warming than lean people, the following points should be considered.

Neither of these assumptions can in fact be verified and should not be considered necessarily true.

Regarding the study, Dr. Edwards commented that "UK health surveys estimate fatness has increased from an average body mass index of 26 to 27 in the last ten years." Such a weight gain is exactly what you would expect when baby boomers in the U.S. and Britain moved into their 50s, where a weight gain of 10 lbs is common, despite no increase in calories or decrease in physical activity. Part of the weight gain is caused by a dramatic drop in growth hormone secretion, which can contribute to increased blood sugar with excess calories being converted to fat and stored. Digestive efficiency also declines with middle age, increasing the risk for maldigestion of protein, which may result in a higher than normal absorption of carbohydrates and fats, with excess calories being converted to fat and stored. Middle age weight gain is normal, and has no association with increased caloric intake, or increased impact on the environment.

Under a private system of health care, individuals with high risk lifestyles like smoking or drinking pay a higher premium for health care coverage. One of the concerns of a socialized health care system, like the UK has, is people will be denied service if they don't comply with approved (politically correct) social standards of behavior. But under a socialized health care system, like in the U.K., everyone is paying the premium for those at increased risk of disease, so the government is justified in denying treatment to those who fail to adopt healthy lifestyles. (Surgery was denied a smoker under the UK system because smokers sometimes have healing complications.) Obesity was defined as a disease a few years ago (perhaps in anticipation). Who's to say under a national health care system, that our government won't deny health coverage or treatment to obese citizens who are assumed to contribute more to global warming by eating excess calories, even when their obesity is related to aging or digestive disease with no impact on the environment whatsoever?

I have my doubts about socialized medicine being better than the imperfect system we have now. For more thoughts on socialized health care, please visit http://www.dietadvisor.com/news_socialized_health_care.htm

John W. Cartmell, MS

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