Elevated Carbon Dioxide Reduces Mineral Content In Plants

Around three billion people worldwide depend on rice for their diet. But rice, wheat, and other crops grown under high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have lower levels of zinc, iron, and other nutrients. Source: Smithsonian

You know the saying, “desperate times call for desperate measures”? The times may not be desperate yet, not for well-fed people living in rich countries like the US, but the times do demand action. Because the climate is changing our food:

Hidden Shift Of The Ionome Of Plants Exposed To Elevated CO2 Depletes Minerals At The Base Of Human Nutrition

The study says that elevated carbon dioxide (eCO2) is reducing mineral concentrations in plants. It also decreases protein concentrations while increasing relative starch content.

Elevated CO2 levels were found to reduce the overall concentration of 25 important minerals — including calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron — in plants by 8% on average. Furthermore, Loladze found that an increased exposure to CO2 also increased the ratio of carbohydrates to minerals in these plants.

This reduction in the nutritional value of plants could have profound impacts on human health: a diet that is deficient in minerals and other nutrients can cause malnutrition, even if a person consumes enough calories.

Low mineral content eventually affects everyone’s food because, as much as locavores like to brag about their food being close and special, most people eat food grown halfway around the world. We have a global economy that includes agricultural commodities. Also, atmospheric carbon dioxide does not discriminate. Your plants, my plants, everyone’s plants will be exposed to it.

So, not desperate measure, but measures nonetheless … like fortification and supplementation, as much as I don’t like to consider that. For one … it’s an extra cost and the minerals don’t come packaged in their natural matrix which assists digestion, absorption, etc. And two … just as with food, access is affected by social inequality:

The case of iodine is illustrative: although iodized table salt nearly wiped out iodine deficiency in the industrialized world, a billion people still have no regular access to it, making iodine deficiency the leading cause of preventable brain damage, cretinism, and lower IQ in children.

Do you take a multivitamin/mineral supplement?

Thanks to Shaun.

4 thoughts on “Elevated Carbon Dioxide Reduces Mineral Content In Plants

  1. Bix Post author

    This (elevated CO2) is different from, and I guess would be additive to, plants grown in soils that are depleted in minerals. These are the times we live in.


    1. Bix Post author

      Just read this morning that alcohol abuse is on the rise in older Americans:

      Which reminds me that people who drink alcohol or who smoke have a higher requirement for some nutrients, e.g. the B vitamins and vitamin C.


  2. Bix Post author

    People in the nutrition field, I have noticed, often lead with the perspective of a perfect human … healthy, young or at least robust, financially comfortable. In the real world, that person is actually rare.



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