Obesity as a cause of global warming?


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That pesky obesity thing. First it forced Disneyland to increase the sizes of its theme-park costumes, and hospitals to buy larger hoists and beds. Now, in a letter published Friday in the medical journal Lancet, two scientists write that obese people are disproportionately responsible for high food prices and greenhouse gas emissions because they consume 18% more food energy due to their greater body mass -- and require increased quantities of fuel to transport themselves and the food they eat. ‘Promotion of a normal distribution of BMI would reduce the global demand for, and thus the price of, food,’ write the authors, Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts of the evocatively named London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

We don’t imagine Edwards and Roberts wrote their letter to be mean -- their point seems to be that it would be good for various reasons if urban policies worked to promote biking and walking -- and we haven’t yet heard of mobs with torches roving the streets in search of those with BMIs of 30 or above. Nonetheless, Yale University has been quick with a news release urging ‘caution on obesity and climate change link.’


Declares Kelly Brownell, director of the university’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, ‘Saying that obese people are contributing to climate change is highly stigmatizing and assigns blame to the individuals who are obese rather than the conditions driving the obesity in the first place.’ Things, he says, like junk food marketing aimed at children, the demise of P.E. programs, behemoth portions offered up in restaurants, more.

I guess, too, we could always point a finger at those lean people we all know who have such high, wasteful metabolisms they can eat what they want, lift not a finger yet stay skinny as a rake. And how can I defend a friend of mine who consumes thousands of calories so he can get on his bicycle and go for 100-mile rides -- only to end up at the very same place he started from, only hungrier? (And by the way, he drives a car -- five miles -- to work.)

--Rosie Mestel

photo credit: Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times