Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The price of transporting the obese

By now we’ve all read about the billions of dollars in added health costs due to our rising obesity rate. But what about all the other costs associated with our expanding waistbands? About a third of the American population is considered obese. A new review of  obesity studies reveals other costs Americans’ incur to carry so much weight around. This includes lower productivity and higher  disability rates. I was struck by the impact of our increasing girth on the cost of moving us around.

Flying the added weight put on by Americans during the 1990s required an extra 350 million  gallons of jet fuel in 2000 alone –at an additional cost of $275 million. Moving all the extra pounds  on American highways required 1 billion more gallons of gas, at a cost of $2.7 billion. One study cited in the review found that the American fleet requires 39 million more gallons of fuel for each extra pound gained by the average passenger.

There is a silver lining to this, of course. It opens up new avenues to curb our energy use. One study found that if each American lost about 11 pounds, the nation’s carbon emissions would fall by 10 million tons a year.

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