The great nutrient collapse

Source: The great nutrient collapse

The atmosphere is literally changing the food we eat, for the worse. And almost nobody is paying attention.

Scientists found that they could make algae grow faster by shining more light onto them—increasing the food supply for the zooplankton, which should have flourished. But it didn’t work out that way. … By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food. The zooplankton had plenty to eat, but their food was less nutritious, and so they were starving.

In the outside world, the problem isn’t that plants are suddenly getting more light: It’s that for years, they’ve been getting more carbon dioxide.

“We don’t know what a minor shift in the carbohydrate ratio in the diet is ultimately going to do,” she said, noting that the overall trend toward more starch and carbohydrate consumption has been associated with an increase in diet-related disease like obesity and diabetes. “To what degree would a shift in the food system contribute to that? We can’t really say.”

Within the category of plants known as “C3”―which includes approximately 95 percent of plant species on earth, including ones we eat like wheat, rice, barley and potatoes―elevated CO2 has been shown to drive down important minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. The data we have, which look at how plants would respond to the kind of CO2 concentrations we may see in our lifetimes, show these important minerals drop by 8 percent, on average.

They found that the protein content of goldenrod pollen has declined by a third since the industrial revolution—and the change closely tracks with the rise in CO2.

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, like the algae, were becoming junk food.