Saturday, January 16, 2021

Climate change is hurting children's diets, global study finds


News Release 14-Jan-2021
Rising temperatures contribute to child malnutrition and reduced diet quality
University of Vermont


A first-of-its-kind, international study of 107,000 children finds that higher temperatures are an equal or even greater contributor to child malnutrition and low quality diets than the traditional culprits of poverty, inadequate sanitation, and poor education.


"Certainly, future climate changes have been predicted to affect malnutrition, but it surprised us that higher temperatures are already showing an impact," said lead author Meredith Niles, an assistant professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont and a fellow at the university's Gund Institute for Environment.


The study finds that the negative effects of climate--especially higher temperature--on diet diversity are greater in some regions than the positive effects of education, water and sanitation and poverty alleviation--all common global development tactics. The findings were published today in Environmental Research Letters.

Of the six regions examined--Asia; Central and South America; North, West, and Southeast Africa, five had significant reductions in diet diversity associated with higher temperatures.


Severe childhood malnutrition is a significant global challenge. According to the United Nations, 144 million children under age 5 were affected by stunting in 2019, an effect of chronic malnutrition. In 2019, 47 million children under 5 suffered from wasting, or acute undernutrition the UN says, a condition caused by limited nutrient intake and infection.


"A warming climate has the potential undermine all the good that international development programs provide," said co-author Taylor Ricketts, Director of UVM's Gund Institute for Environment. "In fact, that is something we find again and again in this global research: continued environmental degradation has the potential to undermine the impressive global health gains of the last 50 years."

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