June 18th, 2012 by James Ayre
The world population is now approaching 8 billion, all of whom need to eat. However, how much someone eats varies of course, depending to a large degree on mass. New research just published in the journal BMC Public Health “has estimated the total mass of the human population, defined its distribution by region, and the proportion of this biomass due to the overweight and obesity.”
Up to half of all the food an individual eats is used for physical activity, increased mass means an individual needs increased calories in order to move the heavier body around. Even at rest, larger bodies use more energy.
The research was done by using data from the World Health Organization and the United Nations. The researchers estimated that the adult human population weighs around 287 million tons, 15 million tons of which is people being overweight, and 3.5 million tons are due to obesity.
“While the average body mass globally was 62kg, North America, which has the highest body mass of any continent, with an average body mass of 80.7kg. North America has only 6% of the world’s population but 34% of the world’s biomass mass due to obesity. In contrast Asia has 61% of the world’s population but only 13% of the world’s biomass due to obesity.”
Explaining what this means, study co-author Sarah Walpole said, “Our results emphasize the importance of looking at biomass rather than just population numbers when considering the ecological impact of a species, especially humans.”
The study was based on a 2005 report, so it actually considerably underestimates obesity, as obesity has been on the rise rapidly in the last seven years.
The population of the world is estimated to reach 8.9 billion people by 2050.
Prof Ian Roberts, continued, “Everyone accepts that population growth threatens global environmental sustainability – our study shows that population fatness is also a major threat. Unless we tackle both population and fatness — our chances are slim.”
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