Fried foods influence climate change?

  • British university chemists found that cooking fat droplets released into the atmosphere form complex structures that can attract moisture and create clouds. The scientists believe that the study results, published in the journal Nature Communications, could have implications for climate change.

  • Cooking fat is responsible for 10% of small particles in the air in large cities such as London, so researchers think that frying food could have a noticeable effect on cloud formation and rainy weather, according to The Telegraph.
  • “It is likely that these structures have a significant effect on water uptake of droplets in the atmosphere, increase lifetimes of reactive molecules and generally slow down transport inside these droplets with yet unexplored consequences,” Christian Pfrang, associate professor of physical and atmospheric chemistry at the University of Reading, told The Telegraph. “We’re not saying that becoming a healthier eater could have an impact on climate, but fat does seem to encourage cloud formation.

Fried fatty foods — French fries, fritters, donuts, fried chicken, corn dogs and the like — have always been popular, although most people are aware of their negative health implications. Frying adds calories via oil or other fats, salt is often included, and the frying process takes away nutrients. Experts say that a medium order of French fries contains 365 calories, 17 grams of fat and 10% of what should be a daily sodium load.

And now that medium order of French fries might also contribute to climate change. While researchers have long known the connection between cooking on open fires and air pollution, as well as dangers to public health due to ineffective ventilation of household gas stoves, this is a new danger. Following extensive experiments in 2013 by scientists measuring indoor air pollution from cooking done by scientists at the Berkeley National Laboratory, the recommendation was made to better ventilate kitchen fumes outside.

It makes sense that once that air pollution gets outside, it can have an impact on the larger environment. And as scientists better understand global warming — as well as negative impacts of chemical reactions associated with cooking — there is ample reason for more consumers to improve their diets. By that same token, there are good reasons for some manufacturers to change their practices.

The British researchers want to replicate their lab results outside in the environment. Adam Squires, associate professor of biophysics and materials at the University of Reading, told The Telegraph, “We know that the complex structures we saw are formed by similar fatty acid molecules like soap in water. There, they dramatically affect whether the mixture is cloudy or transparent, solid or liquid, and how much it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere in a lab. The idea that this may also be happening in the air above our heads is exciting, and raises challenges in understanding what these cooking fats are really doing to the world around us.”