Lincoln, NE (May 3, 2016) – Associate Professor at Bryan College of Health Sciences, Dr. Irakli Loladze, has co-authored two new reports on the impact of climate change on nutrition and human health.
The common link between the two reports is the negative effect of rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) on essential nutrients in food crops. These increasing CO2 levels are contributing to global temperature increases, but also directly affecting plants worldwide by boosting the production of starch and sugars. These extra carbohydrates dilute essential nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and protein in most crops.
“Rising CO2 robs us of vital minerals in every bite of plant-based foods,” said Loladze. “While the effect is small, it is pervasive and lifelong. Its cumulative impact on our health is still unknown.”
On April 4, the Obama White House released the first report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. Dr. Loladze’s research supports a key finding that rising levels of carbon dioxide lower the nutritional value of most food crops. This reduction in crop quality can have a long-range impact on human health. The excessive consumption of carbohydrate-dense but nutrient-poor foods has been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The second study, Rising Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide is Reducing the Protein Concentration of a Floral Pollen Source Essential for North American Bees, was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society on April 13. It finds that high CO2 levels suppressed protein concentrations in pollen, a critical food source for bees that pollinate crops important for human nutrition. The declines in bee populations are widespread and lower pollen quality could increase stresses on these pollinators.
“While it is often remarked that carbon dioxide is ‘plant food’, it should be recognized that for people and pollinators, CO2 can result in ‘junk food’,” said Dr. Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the lead author of the bee study.
Dr. Irakli Loladze is a mathematical biologist and associate professor of general studies at Bryan College of Health Sciences. In 2002, he linked the effects of rising CO2 on plant minerals to human nutrition at Princeton University and continued his research and teaching at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ohio State University, the Catholic University of Daegu in South Korea and the University of Maryland University College in Japan. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Bryan, his outside research and publications have centered on the imbalance of chemical elements in organisms and the environment.