Where climate change and nutrition intersect

Frank Hu, Fredrick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is increasingly concerned by the ways in which climate change affects the nutritional value of food and contributes to epidemics of obesity and undernutrition, according to a profile in the March-April, 2020 Harvard Magazine.

The article traced Hu’s career from Tongji Medical University in Wuhan, China, to Harvard Chan School, to serving on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The piece also highlighted Hu’s work on the Healthy Eating Plate, as well as his research on how genetic and environmental factors relate to obesity.

Recently, according to the article, Hu’s focus has turned to understanding the overlapping problems of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change.

“Both overnutrition and undernutrition are affected by climate change,” Hu said. “When the temperature rises—when carbon dioxide increases—that can actually reduce the amount of zinc, iron, protein, and other nutrients in crops like rice or wheat…and that can further exacerbate the problem of undernutrition in the poor regions of the world. In the meantime, our food system undermines human health because the Westernization of diet has led to high consumption of red meat, processed meats, sugars, and saturated fats. That has led to a global epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.”

Read the Harvard Magazine article: Healthy Plate, Healthy Planet