A new study found that 150 million people worldwide may be affected if carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase, since the gas causes crops to be less nutritious. Researchers found a link between higher CO2 levels and lower protein levels in plants across multiple regions.
Currently, more than two-thirds of the world’s population get protein from plants, instead of meat or dairy. Higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere may reduce the protein content, along with zinc and iron, in staple crops.
A team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that by 2050, 18 countries may be striped of 5 percent of their dietary protein since wheat, rice, and barley are becoming less nutritious.
Less protein means more malnourished children and a high risk of disease and death. Researchers think some possible solutions could be promoting a more diverse diet, artificially enriching existing crops, and modifying crops to be less sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions.
“And, of course, we need to dramatically reduce global CO2 emissions as quickly as possible,”
co-author of the study Samuel Myers said.
The research appeared Wednesday in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal.
Iron Levels May Also Be Affected
Researchers also found that protein loss is less visible in beans, sorghum, and maize. Plus, higher CO2 levels could also rob the plants valuable nutrients such as iron and zinc.
A lack of iron in their daily food could affect more than 1 billion young women and 350 million children in north Africa and South Asia, as they are more likely to become anemic. In those countries, anemia levels are already sky-high, and losing 3.8% of iron in one’s diet could become a public health issue.
Iron deficiency can also lead to higher death rates, development problems, and a poor ability to work.
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