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In the News

Why the decline in bees is linked to early human deaths

Liz Blamire

16th January 2023

It has been estimated that the global decline of pollinators such as bees, is linked to around 500,000 early deaths per year!

The Guardian report on the study - Pollinator Deficits, Food Consumption, and Consequences for Human Health: A Modeling Study - suggests that the 500,000 early deaths figure is probably conservative. So what is happening?

The study took existing data on farming and pollinating insect and animal numbers and used computer modelling to estimate the impact of declining pollinator numbers on the production of healthy foods. We know that some fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes are crops that require animal pollination. We also know that animal pollination is more effective than self-pollination for other crops too. The computer modelling was then extended to examine how the decline in the amount of healthy foods being produced impacts on human health. For example, poor diet is a risk factor for diseases that contribute to early death, such as obesity, coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. The researchers also looked at how the impact differed across different country groups.

The study results not only suggest that the decline in natural pollinators such as bees contribute to early human death, but that the impact would be greatest on the lowest income counties, who are likely to to be the least able to adapt to reduced supply and rising costs of foods.

What was not covered by this study, was how the loss of natural pollinators will likely increase micronutrient deficiencies, for example Vitamin A and folate deficiency. These micronutrients that are vital for health are contained within crops pollinated by insects and animals. A significant amount of global disease burden is linked to micronutrient deficiency. For example, vitamin A deficiency is the leading preventable cause of global childhood blindness and folate deficiency is linked to anameia.

Liz Blamire

Liz is the current tutor2u subject lead for Health and Social Care. She is a former NHS midwife, who has worked in community, birth centre and acute hospital settings. Liz is an SSAT Accredited Lead Practitioner, who has taught Health and Social Care in FE and secondary schools, where she was a successful HOD. Liz is an experienced senior examiner and author.

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