The researches at Monash University warn that global warming is likely to cause several illnesses, especially those caused by undernutrition due to the effects of heat exposure.

Although it is well established that global warming can lead to an increased number of undernourished people through increased food insecurity and threatened crop production, this new research has analyzed the association between heat exposure and illnesses due to undernourishment.

The team of researchers led by Yuming Guo from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine analyzed the data of daily hospitalization covering around 80% of Brazil during the period 2000-2015.

The study analyzed the link between daily mean temperatures and hospitalization for undernourishment. The findings reported that for every 1°C increase in daily mean temperature during summer, there was a 2.5% increase in the number of people hospitalized due to undernutrition. Moreover, they found it to be the greatest among older adults above the age of 80 and those between the age of 5-19.

The researchers estimated that 15.6% of undernutrition hospitalization could be attributed to heat exposure during the study. The study emphasizes that increased heat might cause illnesses through undernourishment in a number of ways including reduced appetite, higher alcohol consumption, reducing ones’ motivation to shop, cook and impaired thermoregulation. It might also worsen one’s previously impaired digestion and absorption by increasing his/her gastrointestinal morbidity.

The study highlights the fact that climate change is one of the biggest threats to the reduction of hunger and undernutrition, particularly among the low and middle-income nations. Climate change has been reported to reduce global food availability by 3.2%. Thus, leading to 30,000 underweight-related mortalities by the year 2050.

"It is plausible to speculate that climate changes could not only increase the rate of undernutrition in the most affected areas of the globe but at the same time, impair individuals' capacity to adapt to projected rises in temperature,” said Yuming Guo et al, "Global strategies addressing the syndemic of climate change and undernutrition should focus on food systems, but also on the prevention of heat exposure," they added.

Glaciers are melting from global warming Glaciers are melting from global warming Photo: AFP / Jonathan NACKSTRAND