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    Smokers Relieved - Obesity Is Getting Blamed For Everything Now
    By Erin Richards | May 12th 2009 04:33 PM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Erin

    I am a current graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I write for Neon Tommy, a digital news website, as a science...

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    We already have a war on drugs, a war on terror, and war against everything French (freedom fries anyone?) but our capacity for war is seemingly unlimited and the newest vendetta has targeted high BMIs. That's right, we're fighting a war on fat people and the soldiers have just added a new weapon to their arsenal.

    Not only does obesity cause diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, cancers, depression, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, and urinary tract infections (i.e everything) but now obese people also cause global warming. If we could prove that obesity caused 9/11 and the AIDS epidemic, we would have found the root of all evil, hands down.

    As preposterous as that seems, scientists are suggesting that obesity is greatly contributing to the production of greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions and global warming in general. Thanks to a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology and authors Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts from the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at London School of Hygiene&Tropical Medicine, we have proof that fat people are melting ice caps and destroying mother earth one fart at a time.

    Obesity causes a lot of health problems, especially for younger adults and children. How much do obese people cause global warming is another issue. Photo credit: City of Houston

    The study focuses on two major reasons why obesity increases CO2 and greenhouse gases. First of all, food production is put in higher demand, and the increase in food production causes more emissions. Second of all, obesity increases demand and emissions of transportation methods. Essentially, fat people eat more, and the increased food production causes more CO2. They also drive more and since they are heavy, they add more weight to their cars, using more gas for travel.

    The study shows that "compared with a ‘normal’ population distribution of BMI with ~3% obese, a population with 40% obese requires 19% more food energy for its total energy expenditure. Greenhouse gas  emissions from food production and car travel due to increases in adiposity in a population of 1
    billion are estimated to be between 0.4 and 1.0 GT of carbon dioxide equivalents per year."

    Although the results support the conclusions of the authors, that increasing population BMIs add to greenhouse gases, they are clearly concerned with the increasing BMIs for entire populations, not individuals. Authors of this study are not claiming that fat people are causing the apocalypse, they are merely warning us to the dangers of a growing trend in our population. Obesity has increased dramatically in past decades, and does impact health of individuals.



    This map represents BMI and obesity trends across the United States. Most states have between 1/4 t0 1/3 obese (BMI 30 or higher) population. Areas in the southern US including Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi have the highest percentage of obese people (more than 30%), and Colorado is apparently the skinniest state with less than 20% of its population being obese. Photo credit: Center for Disease Control

    However, since release of this study, media outlets have been going crazy vilifying obese people around the world. Everywhere from the Las Vegas Sun, to the Chelsea Lately show on E! has something to say about fat people and the environment. It is completely unfair to solely blame obesity for global warming when there are far larger sources of emissions such as major industry, commercial airlines and people who drive Hummers to soccer practice.  There is no one source of global warming, it is a combination of many different components, and the point of this study is to realize that our society needs to reevaluate its needs and resources more carefully, instead of stigmatizing its members.


    References:

    Phil Edwards, Ian Roberts. "Population adiposity and climate change." International Journal of Epidemiology Advance Access published on April 19, 2009, DOI 10.1093/ije/dyp172.

    WHO, Obesity Fact sheet

    NIH, Obesity Statistics

    Comments

    Hank
    Hey, there's a war on thin people too.   All 5 skinny girls left in America are forced to answer questions about how our objectifying culture has made them stop eating.
    I'm an obese smoker - I just can't win.

    Hank
    At least you're having more fun than most.  Ever walk around a GNC?   Not only do those people not look all that healthy, they seem positively miserable.
    jtwitten
    That's because >95% of the stuff in a GNC is a complete waste of money.  At least with smoking, you get the established effects of nicotine.
    jtwitten
    The study focuses on two major reasons why obesity increases CO2 and greenhouse gases. First of all, food production is put in higher demand, and the increase in food production causes more emissions.
    Correlomics.  They start with a correlation (food production, CO2 emissions, and obesity have all increased at the same time) and assume a directionality to causation that supports their argument.  Off the top of my head, here is an alternative, but equally valid, explanation: increased food production (due to technological advancement and government subsidies) pushes down the per calorie cost of food, leading to increased food consumption (more calories per dollar).  Food consumption and CO2 emissions are caused by food production, but are not directly connected to each other.