While many studies have examined the threat that global warming poses to crop production and food security, researchers at Monash University focused solely on the link between heat exposure and increased undernourishment illnesses.
Looking at daily hospitalization data covering almost 80 percent of Brazil between 2000 and 2015, the study found that for every 1.0 degree Celsius increase in daily mean temperature during the hot season, there was a 2.5 percent increase in the number of hospitalizations for undernutrition.
"It has been estimated that climate change will reduce global food availability by 3.2 percent and thus cause about 30,000 underweight-related deaths by 2050," the study published in PLOS Medicine journal said.
"However, this may actually underestimate the real effect of climate change on future undernutrition-related morbidity and mortality, because it overlooks the direct and short-term effects of temperature rise."
"We estimated that over 15 percent of undernutrition hospitalizations could have been attributable to heat exposure in Brazil during the study period."
Calling for improved global strategies to address food systems, undernutrition and heat exposure, researchers also discovered that age and socioeconomic status are likely to make some individuals more vulnerable to malnutrition during times of increase heat.
"Climate change is one of the biggest threats to the reduction of hunger and undernutrition, especially in low and middle-income countries," the study said.
"The association between increased heat and hospitalization for undernutrition was greatest for individuals aged over 80, and those 5 to 19 years."