‘Let obese eat less to ease demand for fuel, food’

May 16th, 2008 - 2:56 pm ICT by admin  

London, May 16 (IANS) It’s not exactly a response to US President Bush’s comments on the global food price hike, but a respected medical journal has said if the obese in the West took to walking or cycling, it would dramatically reduce global oil and food demand. A study appearing in the Lancet has pointed out that “motorised transport is more than 95 percent oil dependent and accounts for almost half of world oil use. Since oil is a key agricultural input, demand for transportation fuel affects food prices”.

It added: “Increased car use also contributes to rising food prices by promoting obesity, which increases the global demand for food.”

President George Bush had kicked up a controversy recently when he indirectly held India’s improved food habits responsible for the worldwide rise in food prices.

The study’s authors have estimated that a population with a stable mean body-mass index (BMI) consumes an average of 1,550 calories of food per head daily to maintain the basal metabolic rate (BMR), besides 950 calories for daily activities, totalling 2,500 calories.

An obese population of one billion people would require 1,680 calories per head daily to maintain BMR and 1,280 calories for daily activities or 2,960 calories, which works out to 18 percent more food consumption.

In 1991, only four US states had obesity prevalence rates of 15-19 percent and none had a rate greater than 20 percent. By 2000, all 50 states had obesity prevalence rates of 15 percent or greater, with 35 reporting rates of 20 percent or greater.

More fuel energy will also be required to transport greater numbers of obese population, the study said, which will tend to make them fatter still and even less inclined to walk.

The authors called for transport policies that foster walking and cycling to reduce obesity and reduce transportation oil demand.

Reducing the prevalence of obesity would, they say, reduce the global demand for both fuel and food.

“Decreased car use would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus the need for biofuels, and increased physical activity levels would reduce injury risk and air pollution, improving population health.”

These findings by Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are being published in this week’s issue of the Lancet.

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