1. Ecology
  2. Epidemiology and Global Health
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Hidden shift of the ionome of plants exposed to elevated CO2 depletes minerals at the base of human nutrition

  1. Irakli Loladze  Is a corresponding author
  1. Catholic University of Daegu, Korea (South), Republic of
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2014;3:e02245 doi: 10.7554/eLife.02245


Mineral malnutrition stemming from undiversified plant-based diets is a top global challenge. In C3 plants (e.g., rice, wheat), elevated concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (eCO2) reduce protein and nitrogen concentrations, and can increase the total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC; mainly starch, sugars). However, contradictory findings have obscured the effect of eCO2 on the ionome - the mineral and trace-element composition - of plants. Consequently, CO2-induced shifts in plant quality have been ignored in the estimation of the impact of global change on humans. This study shows that eCO2 reduces the overall mineral concentrations (-8%, 95% confidence interval: -9.1 to -6.9, p carbon:minerals in C3 plants. The meta-analysis of 7,761 observations, including 2,264 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.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Irakli Loladze

    Catholic University of Daegu, Gyeongsan, Korea (South), Republic of
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Ian T Baldwin, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: January 8, 2014
  2. Accepted: April 25, 2014
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: May 7, 2014 (version 1)
  4. Accepted Manuscript updated: May 13, 2014 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record published: May 27, 2014 (version 3)


© 2014, Loladze & Baldwin

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.


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