Is Obesity Weighing Down the Planet?

Here’s yet another reason for people to opt for veggie burgers and other low-fat vegan foods instead of cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets: A recent study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine indicates that humans are getting too heavy for the planet. According to the researchers, the adult human population now weighs in at 287 million tons. They attribute 18.5 million of those tons to the overweight and the obese. All this extra tonnage is leading not only to heart attacks, diabetes, and cancer but also to climate change and other environmental problems.

According to lead researcher professor Ian Roberts, “fatness” is as much a threat to the environment as overpopulation. He explains that the problem isn’t just how many mouths there are to feed but also how many of those mouths are on overweight bodies. A person with a bigger body mass index, or BMI, requires more energy—because it simply takes more energy to move a bigger body.


Countries with heavier people (such as the United States and the United Kingdom) use more resources, and it takes more resources to produce meat and dairy products than it takes to produce vegan foods. For example, meat production requires 11 times more fossil fuels—and nearly 4,000 extra gallons of water per day—than the production of plant-based foods does.

We can all tread more lightly on the Earth—literally—by exercising and eating healthy vegan foods. Research shows that vegans of all ages tend to have lower BMIs than their meat-eating counterparts. Vegetarians usually have higher BMIs than vegans do, while meat-eaters have the highest average BMI of all.

There are heavy vegans and slim meat-eaters, of course, but other studies suggest that meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than vegans are. That’s not that surprising when you consider all the meat-laden, cheese-stuffed options on the market. A BK Steakhouse XT Burger with a slice of cheese, for example, has a whopping 860 calories and 54 grams of fat, not to mention 135 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,820 milligrams of sodium.

In general, it’s just easier to maintain a healthy weight if you eat vegan foods rather than animal-based ones, because most vegan foods are naturally low in fat and calories. They’re also often high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which help boost your metabolism so you burn more calories.


Overweight people can slim down—and save animals—by eating plant-based meals, such as pasta with spicy marinara sauce, beefless tips sautéed with asparagus and onions, bean burritos, hummus and veggie wraps, seasoned tofu scramble, and smoothies made with almond milk and fresh fruit. PETA has hundreds of free vegan recipes as well as other information linking animal agriculture to climate change and other environmental problems. Professor Roberts wants the world to go on a diet. It will benefit everyone, animals included, if it’s a vegan one.