Carbon dioxide isn’t just a greenhouse gas that’s thinning the atmosphere, but it’s also causing a popular food to lose its nutritional value over time, which will have a major impact on more than 2 billion people worldwide.
According to a recent study conducted in a joint effort by researchers in Japan, China, Australia, and the United States, higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contribute to the decline of protein and other key vitamins in rice. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at 18 different agriculture sites in China and Japan over a four-year span and found that the crops exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide were overall less nutritious than those that were not.
“Many basic crops are impacted by the rise of CO2 with respect to things like protein concentration and iron and zinc,” says Lewis Ziska, PhD, a co-author and research plant physiologist at the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
The research explains that the exposed rice contained 10 percent less protein, 8 percent less iron, and 5 percent less zinc, while amounts of B1, B2, B5, and B9 vitamins also declined. And increased levels of carbon dioxide doesn’t just have a negative effect on rice, but other food staples including wheat, barley, and potatoes also face grave consequences when exposed to higher levels.
While this certainly impacts many people worldwide, it follows that the people that would suffer the most would be those that consume the most rice, which, as the study also found, also happen to be those who live in the poorest countries.
Additional studies are now underway and researchers are trying to solve this problem by looking at the different varieties of each crop in hopes of finding the types that react the least, or not at all, to high levels of CO2.
Until then, what can you do? For starters, you can try to eat a variety of foods and get your vitamins and proteins from various sources, like these 10 most nutritious foods in the world. Then to help with the larger problem of global warming and climate change, you can make simple lifestyle changes such as hang drying your clothes, walking to work, and turning off the lights when you’re not home. Need some more inspiration? You’ll reduce your carbon footprint in time by making these 25 simple switches.