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      Hidden shift of the ionome of plants exposed to elevated CO 2 depletes minerals at the base of human nutrition

      1 , *
      eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd
      elevated CO2, zinc, iron, ionome, crops, human nutrition, none

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          Mineral malnutrition stemming from undiversified plant-based diets is a top global challenge. In C 3 plants (e.g., rice, wheat), elevated concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (eCO 2) reduce protein and nitrogen concentrations, and can increase the total non-structural carbohydrates (TNC; mainly starch, sugars). However, contradictory findings have obscured the effect of eCO 2 on the ionome—the mineral and trace-element composition—of plants. Consequently, CO 2-induced shifts in plant quality have been ignored in the estimation of the impact of global change on humans. This study shows that eCO 2 reduces the overall mineral concentrations (−8%, 95% confidence interval: −9.1 to −6.9, p<0.00001) and increases TNC:minerals > carbon:minerals in C 3 plants. The meta-analysis of 7761 observations, including 2264 observations at state of the art FACE centers, covers 130 species/cultivars. The attained statistical power reveals that the shift is systemic and global. Its potential to exacerbate the prevalence of ‘hidden hunger’ and obesity is discussed.

          DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02245.001

          eLife digest

          Rice and wheat provide two out every five calories that humans consume. Like other plants, crop plants convert carbon dioxide (or CO 2) from the air into sugars and other carbohydrates. They also take up minerals and other nutrients from the soil.

          The increase in CO 2 in the atmosphere that has happened since the Industrial Revolution is thought to have increased the production of sugars and other carbohydrates in plants by up to 46%. CO 2 levels are expected to rise even further in the coming decades; and higher levels of CO 2 are known to lead to lower levels of proteins in plants. But less is known about the effects of CO 2 levels on the concentrations of minerals and other nutrients in plants.

          Loladze has investigated the effect of rising CO 2 levels on the nutrient levels in food plants by analyzing data on 130 varieties of plants: his dataset includes the results of 7761 observations made over the last 30 years, by researchers around the world. Elevated CO 2 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 CO 2 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. This type of malnutrition is common around the world because many people eat only a limited number of staple crops, and do not eat enough foods that are rich in minerals, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats. Diets that are poor in minerals (in particular, zinc and iron) lead to reduced growth in childhood, to a reduced ability to fight off infections, and to higher rates of maternal and child deaths.

          Loladze argues that these changes might contribute to the rise in obesity, as people eat increasingly starchy plant-based foods, and eat more to compensate for the lower mineral levels found in crops. Looking to the future, these findings highlight the importance of breeding food crops to be more nutritious as the world's CO 2 levels continue to rise.

          DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02245.002

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          Most cited references148

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          MORE EFFICIENT PLANTS: A Consequence of Rising Atmospheric CO2?

          The primary effect of the response of plants to rising atmospheric CO2 (Ca) is to increase resource use efficiency. Elevated Ca reduces stomatal conductance and transpiration and improves water use efficiency, and at the same time it stimulates higher rates of photosynthesis and increases light-use efficiency. Acclimation of photosynthesis during long-term exposure to elevated Ca reduces key enzymes of the photosynthetic carbon reduction cycle, and this increases nutrient use efficiency. Improved soil-water balance, increased carbon uptake in the shade, greater carbon to nitrogen ratio, and reduced nutrient quality for insect and animal grazers are all possibilities that have been observed in field studies of the effects of elevated Ca. These effects have major consequences for agriculture and native ecosystems in a world of rising atmospheric Ca and climate change.
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            Biofortification—A Sustainable Agricultural Strategy for Reducing Micronutrient Malnutrition in the Global South

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              • Abstract: not found
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              Impact of CO2fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe's warm, arid environments


                Author and article information

                Role: Reviewing editor
                eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd
                07 May 2014
                : 3
                : e02245
                [1 ]Department of Mathematics Education, The Catholic University of Daegu , Gyeongsan, Republic of Korea
                Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology , Germany
                Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology , Germany
                Author notes
                [* ]For correspondence: loladze@ 123456asu.edu
                Copyright © 2014, Loladze

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

                : 08 January 2014
                : 25 April 2014
                The author declares that there was no external funding for this work.
                Research Article
                Epidemiology and Global Health
                Custom metadata
                Increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide reduce the mineral content but increase the levels of starch and sugars found in crop plants; which could exacerbate both obesity and malnutrition in some human populations.

                Life sciences
                elevated co2,zinc,iron,ionome,crops,human nutrition,none
                Life sciences
                elevated co2, zinc, iron, ionome, crops, human nutrition, none


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