Carbon Dioxide makes Carbohydrates: Climate Change means more Sugar, less Food

In the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of Mother Jones, Tom Philpott writes that increasing atmospheric CO2 is having a detrimental effect on our nutrition, along with all our other woes. Referring to research by Irakli Loladze, a mathematical biologist, Philpott reports that plants surrounded by air with more CO2 synthesize more carbohydrates (starches and sugars) in their cells, diluting other beneficial molecules, including protein and certain vitamins and minerals.

Increased carbohydrates are not a problem for the plants; but they may be a big problem for humans, who require a range of nutrients beyond simple carbs. And of course other animals are like us: they too need protein, vitamins and minerals in addition to starches and sugars. Another study mentioned by Philpott conducted between 1994 and 2015 indicated that cattle pastures experienced nearly a 10% decrease in protein over that (short!) time period, a change significant enough to affect the animals’ growth. This represents almost $2 billion extra to supplement their diets with soybean feed, a big cost to cattle ranchers, and a questionable nutritional trade-off for eaters who desire a root-source of protein that does not ultimately come from soy.

A Politico article from a couple of years ago, also discussing Loladze’s research results, states, “Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average. The ratio of carbohydrates to minerals was going up. The plants … were becoming junk food.”

So the bottom line is, too many carbs in the air means too many carbs in the food. Bad news for health-oriented people who focus on good nutrition.

What can we do about it? Of course I think that Nature Towns and regenerative lifestyles are part of the solution! We are working not only to mitigate climate change but also to produce the most nutrient-dense foods that money can buy. When you move into a new Nature Towns, the farm that supports your health will already be operating. We remineralize the soil before bringing in livestock, so the plants grown there will have the best chance of producing nutrients that benefit your health.

Farmers are currently incentivized only to maximize yield, not nutrition. The job performance of stewards in Nature Towns will be measured in part by the health of their soil – which also means the nutrient-density of your foods. Live here to be healthy! It starts with your membership.

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