Unexpected Consequences of Climate Change
Climate change has ever further reaching consequences: researchers claim almost 150 million people may be placed at risk of protein deficiency by 2050 if levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continue to rise. Experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found under elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), the protein contents of wheat, rice, barley and potatoes fell by an average of 7 percent. Since more than three quarters of the world’s population derive most of their daily protein from plants, this is concerning! The researchers point out, the effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on dietary protein ‘will depend on which staples a country consumes, their dependence on the staple for protein, and their current risk of protein deficiency’. Currently, 1.4 billion people globally suffer from a protein deficiency, and this is only anticipated to become more severe as the global CO2 level increases; and because this may have the greatest effect on the protein intake of those with the poorest diets, the researchers said ‘more equitable food distribution, and poverty reduction measures should be a focus for minimising risk of deficiency.’
Higher levels of CO2 are also likely to exacerbate the ‘already significant’ problem of iron deficiency worldwide. In an analysis of diets in 152 countries, researchers found people most at risk are expected to lose more than 3.8 percent of dietary iron as a result of the CO2 effect. 1.4 billion children aged 1 to 5 and women of childbearing age, live in ‘high-risk’ countries, ‘where the prevalence of anaemia exceeds 20 percent, and modelled loss in dietary iron would be the most severe’. The researchers concluded, saying ‘because these changes will be gradual and largely imperceptible, ongoing monitoring will be required to evaluate when and how to most effectively intervene.’
Ultimately, global increases in CO2 will exert detrimental outcomes for many countries, including many of the poorest, and controlling future CO2 emissions will not only help alleviate climatic and biological consequences, but avert future health and nutrition impacts as well.
A study has found the frequent use of multivitamin and mineral supplements (MVMS) achieves exactly what it’s supposed to achieve: fill in dietary shortfalls. Although more than 50 percent of US adults use dietary supplements and the global supplement industry was valued at more than $130 billion in 2016, there is surprisingly little data on the impact of supplementation on nutrient intakes and deficiencies. Unsurprisingly, however, the study found ‘frequent use of MVMS is effective in increasing micronutrient intakes, decreasing prevalence of most nutrient inadequacies, and decreasing risk of deficiencies of vitamins B6, B12, C and D’. This will come as no surprise to manufacturers who have spent millions researching increases in bioavailability and uptake mechanisms, but it’s always good to have confirmation and shows the use of MVMS can be important support for overall health and wellbeing. As modern Western diets often lack balanced nutrition, despite a person’s best efforts, MVMS are helpful supplements, and should be marketed as ways to ‘optimise nutrition and health’ alongside a healthy, balanced diet.
NASA have revealed they are exploring the viability of microorganisms for space flight! The diversity of culturable bacteria in the gut microbiome was found to have decreased in astronauts returning from space—coinciding with a decreased immune system and increased gastrointestinal distress. This is obviously a concern—not just for the astronauts living up on the space station, but for the pioneering first colonists of Mars! Because probiotics have been shown to help on Earth, NASA scientists are now exploring if they could work during spaceflight. Lactobacillus acidophilus could be the answer, but no fermented foods or probiotic products are currently included in ‘an astronaut food system’ because of the strict microbiological controls and lack of refrigeration on a spacecraft. This could be the perfect niche market for a manufacturer looking for a real challenge. ‘Could spaceflight-associated immune system weakening preclude the expansion of human presence beyond Earth’s orbit?’ Not if manufacturers step up!