Big Waistlines Mean Bigger Carbon Footprints: Obesity and Climate Change Linked

A study shows that countries with higher average BMIs produce 20 percent more greenhouse gases than slim ones.

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A smaller waistline isn't just better for our health - it's also good for the planet, according to a recent study from the International Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers found that a lean population will consume almost 20 percent less food and produce fewer greenhouse gases than a population in which 40 percent of people are obese, similar to the U.S.

The difference can be attributed to several factors. Many slimmer nations consume less meat. The study also found that it takes less energy to transport slimmer people. Says Science Daily: "The researchers estimate that a lean population of 1 billion people would emit 1.0 GT (1,000 million tonnes) less carbon dioxide equivalents per year compared with a fat one."

The Guardian's Leo Hickman notes, "As if being obese didn't already carry enough social stigma. Now, it seems, you're not just killing yourself by being overweight, but you're killing the planet, too." He compares obesity to smoking:

For me the most interesting aspect of the study is that it shows how the obesity debate is now starting to be analogous to how the smoking debate ended up playing out. At first, being overweight – like smoking - was labelled as being something that was damaging to just you. The attitude was: if you want to eat or smoke yourself to an early grave then be my guest. But now being overweight is increasingly being seen as a selfish act in which – as with the effects of passive smoking - you are not just having a negative impact on yourself but also those around you, be it through increased healthcare costs (both through overall taxation and rising insurance premiums) or, as is now being claimed, increased environmental costs.

Losing weight can be green in many ways. Lori Bongiorno at Yahoo Green has a few suggestions: eat fruits and lean protein, walk and bike more, avoid high fructose corn syrup, and replace soft drinks with tap (not bottled) water for a slimmer body and carbon footprint.

TAGS:
environment
weight loss
obesity

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