More people are getting bigger, requiring more food

More people are getting bigger, requiring more food

Food securityMore people are getting bigger, requiring more food


Published 9 November 2018

Food demand is growing as people get bigger. Feeding a population of 9 billion in 2050 will require much more food than previously calculated. The number of people on Earth could level off at around nine billion in a few years, compared to just over 7.6 billion now. But an average person in the future will require more food than today. Changes in eating habits, attitudes towards food waste, increases in height and body mass, and demographic transitions are some of the reasons.



Food demand is growing as people get bigger. Feeding a population of 9 billion in 2050 will require much more food than previously calculated.


“It will be harder to feed 9 billion people in 2050 than it would be today,” says Gibran Vita, a PhD candidate at NTNU ‘s Industrial Ecology Programme.


According to WWF, the world’s greatest environmental problem is the destruction of wildlife and plant habitat. A large part of the devastation is due to the demands of an ever-increasing human population. On the other hand, “Zero Hunger” is the second UN Sustainable Development Goal and its challenge is to meet a global growing food demand.


The number of people could level off at around nine billion in a few years, compared to just over 7.6 billion now.


But an average person in the future will require more food than today. Changes in eating habits, attitudes towards food waste, increases in height and body mass, and demographic transitions are some of the reasons.


People are changing
Professor Daniel B. Müller and colleagues Felipe Vásquez and Vita analysed changes in the populations of 186 countries between 1975 and 2014.


“We studied the effects of two phenomena. One is that people on average have become taller and heavier. The second is that the average population is getting older,” said Vita.


The first phenomenon contributes to increased food demand. The second counteracts the former one.


An average adult in 2014 was 14 per cent heavier, about 1.3 per cent taller, 6.2 per cent older, and needed 6.1 per cent more energy than in 1975. Researchers expect this trend to continue for most countries.


“An average global adult consumed 2465 kilocalories per day in 1975. In 2014, the average adult consumed 2615 kilocalories,” says Vita.