The rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means that crops are becoming less nutritious, and that change could lead to higher rates of malnutrition that predispose people to various diseases.
That conclusion comes from an analysis published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, which also examined how the risk could be alleviated. In the end, cutting emissions, and not public health initiatives, may be the best response, according to the paper's authors, which includes Stanford Health Policy's Eran Bendavid and Sanjay Basu.
Research has already shown that crops like wheat and rice produce lower levels of essential nutrients when exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide, thanks to experiments that artificially increased CO2 concentrations in agricultural fields. While plants grew bigger, they also had lower concentrations of minerals like iron and zinc.