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Obesity as a cause of global warming?

May 16, 2008 |  4:48 pm

obesity is the cause of global warming?

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

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Comments (147)

Humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases. Therefore, we breathe out the poison of the earth. More humans means more greenhouse gases. By this reasoning, sex is a great contributor to global warming!

I honestly think our planet is in flux, and that the food crisis is more due to the failing economy rather than a two degree rise in equatorial climates. Global warming has not progressed to the stages in which effects should be at all noticeable - if it will affect us the way most believe it to. Environmental scientists predict that global warming will result in a redistribution of currents, which would restore equilibrium. Blaming fat people is funny, but weak considering the evidence.

PS - Gore shows you a picture of melting ice, that's not because of global warming. That's called summertime. They do that. And that swimming bear without an icecap to rest on? That's a swimming bear. They do that too.

my wife is extremely over weight, but when winter comes I can turn the heat down cause she keeps me warm..... SO WE ARE HELPING YOU SKINNY PEOPLE STAY WARM WITH EXTRA OIL&GAS......FAT IS WHERE ITS AT ............

This is ridiculous. I know plenty of skinny people who eat just as much as fat people. You know, the people you look at with disgust because they can eat whatever they want in whatever quantities and they never gain weight.

Lets talk about the real problems, people of all sizes have nearly no interest in making things better.
How many people do you know that grow their own food, collect their rain water to water the food, live off the grid, bike to their destinations...
not many probably not even one. It isn't an issue of skinny or fat, it is an issue of greed.

Looks like Americans will use anything to justify their insatiable appetites for greasy, unhealthy food.

To the people that mention meat eaters as contributors... Vegetarians produce more methane from their diet than non this case vegetarians are just like cattle... there are only so many cows producing methane, but in many cases producers are finding ways to trap the methane for resale. But all those millions of vegetarians (and that number is growing) are contributing to the methane production just like the cattle are... but there are far more people on this planet than cattle... let he who is without sin (in this case doesn't fart or belch methane) cast the first stone... I think we are all guilty... Blame the fat, the vegitarians, the meat eaters, the cows, and realize it's everyone, every day, all the time... Blame is fun to pass around... but all these one sided comments are getting old...

I bet these authors are already planning their next inane headline to see how many "news" outlets pick it up as a major story. Keep buying those bridges...

what would the world do without fat people. 75% of all doctors will need to get a new job because fat people with their diseases keep them in business.

Drug companies suddenly losses 75% to 90% of their business because no more fat people to market their cholesterol reducition pills, heart meds, and etc etc.

Foot prices take a tank, causing farmers to ababon their job because prices are so low to sell they cant support their families which would rattle the financial markets.

Is this a joke?

It must be.

While there are fat people who over eat, at least in the sense of eating more calories per day than they need to maintain weight,

Many obese people actually don't eat as many calories as skinny people, as the skinny people have higher metabolism and can eat the same amount of calories and still not gain fat weight.

And as the point was made some thin people exercise a lot to burn off excess calories so they actually consume more calories per day as well.

If you stop driving 3/4 ton pick up trucks and giant SUVs to the supermarket you would do more to stop global warming. if the govt supported alternative energy sources instead of subsidizing their friends in the oil business then more good would be done.

The book ASIAN MIND-BODY TECHNIQUES REVEALED goes into this body fat argument in great detail, read it.

I'm thinking obese people use mostly motorized means of transportation, too. And, though it may sound sarcastic, it's true. Obese people need custom made caskets for their burials which take a lot more wood in the production process.

A few of the comments here hit the nail on the head - overpopulation is the biggest cause of global warming. Period. So Ms. Bennett in her car that gets 40+ mpg... bravo to you - and your five kids.

Five kids. Got a farm going and need the extra help?

What on our not-so-green-anymore Earth does a family in America NEED to have 5 children for (or 4 or 3 for that matter). Really. Someone tell me. And do note the difference between need and want. There's a whole lot of want in this country with very little need for it. It's utterly pathetic.

Don't get me started on people with fat kids. Hehehe just kidding.

Hugs and kisses,

A thin, non-breeder

My goodness.

Isn't it amazing how quickly people get upset about facts.

It IS a fact that fat people consume more food than thin people.

It IS a fact that driving more weight uses more fuel. A fat guy in a Mini uses more fuel than a thin guy in a Mini. A fat guy in a Tahoe uses more fuel than a thin guy in a Tahoe. (But hey, the fat guy in the Mini uses less fuel than the thin guy in the Tahoe, so dump the BMI and the SUV for best results).

It IS a fact that fat people generate increased burden on the healthcare system (and I'm not just talking about hospitals having to SuperSize all their equipment).

So, more food intake + more fuel transport cost = more consumption. And consumption almost always costs resources and energy. So more consumption = more pollution.

You can be upset at factors that lead to obesity, but you cannot deny these facts.

I am amazed at the number of people posting about their skinny "friends" who eat a lot. All that resentment is bound to make them reach for the comfort food, lose track of how much they eat and drive their giant SUVs to the mall to buy clothes that could cover 3 small people.

While the skinny with high metabolisms won't ease any food shortage, their impact is still diminished in comparison with a heavier person who eats just as much. Yes, not everyone who's overweight eats more than those who aren't but some do pig out. And to those of you who don't eat a lot and are still overweight: guess what, your health is still at greater risk or is already compromised and causing you to be fat.

The research was about overall trends, not individuals, yet so many XXLs went on the defensive. They should put all that effort into going the mile to lose the excess pounds. It's unfortunate that it's more difficult for an ever-increasing segment of the population to lose weight; but shifting blame to the faults of others doesn't diminish their own.


What a load.

Can fat people buy carbon offsets for their consumption? ie. they eat more but promote starvation in third world countries so as to balance out the carbon usage?

I am a fat guy but I am 60% more productive than most skinny guys. Skinny people tend to take extended lunches as they have to drive to the nearest health food restaurant for lunch so get a salad with low fat dressings where as I can eat twinkies from the snack machine and get back to work. In addition I am several orders of magnitude more intelligent than most skinny folks who are more focused on how they look in their speedo than what they can do to contribute to productivity. I personally don't care how I look in my speedo. I even keep my blackberry clipped to my speedo so that I don't miss a chance to solve a problem. Fat Guys Rule !!!

I'm not taking the time to read all of the comments. The first thirty or so that I did read all seem to have one thing in common. They all seem to accept the global warming drek as though it were real. The last ten years has shown global *cooling*. So, if global cooling is actually happening, and emitting greenhouse gases contributes to global warming, then we need more fat people to help us all keep from freezing to death.

You go, fat people.

If consumption by 1st-worlders were to decline by 20% but the 1st world's production capacity did not, the excess product would probably be transported to 3rd world countries to help raise the standard of living of their citizen. Zero gain?

Over 400 World Wide Prominent Scientists Dispute Man-Made Global Warming Claims. See

Climate change is a better term than global warming. Besides the rise in average global temperature, other effects include rising sea levels and flooding, disturbed weather patterns, pollution, human and animal migration, etc.

Hey, what about all those (umm, including me) guys over 40 who contribute disproportionately to methane releases eh?? We'd better discuss THAT issue too.

It isn't a surprise to me that so many people argue this scientific research. With over 70% of Americans overweight it makes sense that you would only have a desire to lash out in your defense. The important thing that we need to take from this research is that ALL AMERICANS need to be conscious of their consumptions. People around the world have become the "Live to Eat" type rather than eating to live. Many people would be amazing at how little food they actually NEED to eat to sustain a healthy life. And just because you CAN eat 3 times that amount and stay healthy doesn't make it right. Lets not argue the facts that these people have presented us. Rather lets agree that we all need to reduce our consumption and maintain a conscious effort in helping the planet and ourselves rather than hurting.

If ever there was a case to censorship these two knucleheads article is a prime example

What rubbish. Im sure many people that do regular exercise eat more than someone the same weight who doesn't exercise often. Based on that logic, we blame fit people for global warming as they consume more food too?

I am not over weight. But I find thsi article appalling.When I was younger I could eat anything I wanted and as much as I wanted.My diet would have been comporable to that of an obese person.. So why not write an articel about skinny people, that consume way to much food.

In United States CO2 emission per capita is six times the global average citizen and more than 30 times that of a citizen in a developing country which is more than worrying information as the world's leading country is mainly responsible for global warming problem and leads in CO2 emission.

US contributes to almost 25 % of greenhouse gas emissions which is definitely too much considering US covers only 9 % of the world population.



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