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Earth under threat from human numbers

Obesity is not just a serious health hazard, it’s an environmental problem as well, as a new study has found that our fast growing waistlines are putting an extra weight of 242 million people on Earth.

world Updated: Jun 18, 2012 23:50 IST

Obesity is not just a serious health hazard, it’s an environmental problem as well, as a new study has found that our fast growing waistlines are putting an extra weight of 242 million people on Earth.


Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) estimated that the adult human population now weighs 287 million tonnes, 15 million of which is due to the overweight and 3.5 million due to obesity.

That’s the equivalent of the extra weight of about 170 military aircraft carriers or the weight of an additional 242 million people having an average body mass on the planet, the researchers said.

This is, they said, just an attempt to make humans feel uncomfortable about their expanding waistline; looking at the mass of humanity can improve understanding of the effects of population growth.

Writing in the journal BMC Public Health, the researchers said: “United Nations world population projections suggest that by 2050 there could be an additional 2.3 billion people. The ecological implications of rising population numbers will be exacerbated by increases in average body mass.”

The argument is simple. More body mass takes more energy to maintain; therefore as someone’s weight goes up, so do the calories they need to exist. It means increases in population counts don’t tell the whole story when it comes to demand for resources.

“Although the largest increase in population is expected in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, our results suggest that population increases in the USA will carry more weight than implied by numbers,” they wrote.