With increasing obesity, fuel consumption becomes weighty matter

Dec 16, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Excess fuel consumption caused by excess driver and passenger weight has increased in the past two years, with no end in sight.

In a widely publicized study in fall 2006, University of Illinois computer science professor Sheldon H. Jacobson and doctoral student Laura McLay estimated the amount of vehicle fuel consumed as a result of overweight and obese passengers.

Now, in a new study by Jacobson and doctoral student Douglas King, current estimates of weight-based fuel consumption were calculated and compared with those reported in 2006. The results are not good news.

“Growing overweight and obesity rates in the United States continue to increase fuel consumption by adding extra passenger weight to vehicles,” said Jacobson, who also is the director of the university’s simulation and optimization laboratory. “More than 1 billion gallons of fuel consumed each year can be attributed to this excess weight.”

In 2006, Jacobson and McLay found that cars and light trucks consumed up to 938 million additional gallons of fuel each year as a result of average weight gain since the 1960s. In the new study, Jacobson and King found the amount of additional fuel had jumped by nearly 200 million gallons, to 1.137 billion gallons a year, an increase of about
21 percent.

Gathered by U.S. government agencies, the data used in the study described the use and performance of noncommercial passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) in 2005, the age and gender of drivers and passengers, and the changes in weight of Americans.

“One question that came up regarding our previous study was that while Americans have grown heavier, they have also grown taller. So, shouldn’t we be taking that into account?” Jacobson said.

“It turns out that Americans are approximately an inch taller now than they were in the 1960s. To address this, our new study looked at the distribution of body mass index, instead of the distribution of weight.”

Body mass index is a measurement calculated by dividing an individual’s weight (in kilograms) by the square of the person’s height (in meters).

According to the latest data available, nearly 66 percent of Americans are overweight with a body mass index exceeding 25; nearly 32 percent are considered obese with a body mass index exceeding 30.

“The trend in this country is that we are getting heavier, and our vehicles are consuming more fuel as a result,” Jacobson said. “The growing obesity problem is a major symptom of our nation’s addiction to oil. We prefer to ride when we should walk.”

The obesity problem and the fuel-dependency problem are so related, “we cannot hope to tackle one without also tackling the other,” Jacobson said. And, as he and King point out in their study, the problems are not limited to the United States.

“A recent surge in overweight and obesity rates in China correlates with an increased level of automobile ownership,” Jacobson said, “indicating that the issues being faced by the U.S. will become international issues as nations become more affluent.

The study and findings are in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Transportation Research Part D (Transport and Environment), and posted on its Web site.

The study was funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

Provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Explore further: Rare early shakespeare compilation found in small French library

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Heavier Drivers Consume More Fuel

Nov 01, 2006

The rising incidence of obesity in the United States doesn't just lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, it also increases fuel consumption in passenger vehicles, according to a study by Virginia ...

Recommended for you

James Watson's Nobel Prize to be auctioned

Nov 25, 2014

Missed the chance to bid on Francis Crick's Nobel Prize when it was auctioned off last year for $2.27 million? No worries, you'll have another chance to own a piece of science history on Dec. 4, when James D. Watson's 1962 ...

Engineers develop gift guide for parents

Nov 21, 2014

Faculty and staff in Purdue University's College of Engineering have come up with a holiday gift guide that can help engage children in engineering concepts.

User comments : 10

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Quantum_Conundrum
1.7 / 5 (11) Dec 16, 2008
%u201CThe trend in this country is that we are getting heavier, and our vehicles are consuming more fuel as a result,%u201D Jacobson said. %u201CThe growing obesity problem is a major symptom of our nation%u2019s addiction to oil. We prefer to ride when we should walk.%u201D



Hey morons. Atheletic people actually consume more fuel than "obese" people.

Why? Because they actually have a higher caloric intake than fat people, because they obsess so much about exercising. By the time you count the total amount of energy required to grow all the extra food atheletic people consume, and consider that they often have memberships in gyms to which they drive, it is actually the atheletic people who are "wasting" the world's fuel (and food) resources.
vlam67
4.5 / 5 (6) Dec 16, 2008
No wonder Humvee and heavy duty SUVs are so popular there. They need all the moving power and buttock room they can get.
GrayMouser
2.5 / 5 (4) Dec 16, 2008
Wow! I'm really going ask a "computer science professor" about health issues...

NOT!
bugmenot23
1 / 5 (4) Dec 16, 2008
EEE
Mauricio
4 / 5 (4) Dec 16, 2008
Exercise reduce appetite!!!! nothing to make people eat more than being sedentary. So being obese indeed causes more fuel consumption. Even more, people who exercise are more likely to eat healthy diets, that are easier to grow, than the white bread, pizza and all the processed food than obese individuals eat.
davebarnes
3.3 / 5 (3) Dec 16, 2008
%u201CMore than 1 billion gallons of fuel consumed each year can be attributed to this excess weight.%u201D
Wow! That sounds like a lot.
Well it is 0.007 or 0.7% of annual USA gasoline consumption.
In other words. Not a lot.
Arikin
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 16, 2008
So that 21% increase is due solely to excess weight of the passengers... Not driving habits, increase in SUVs, or increase in the number of vehicles on the road....

And this is assuming that an average increase in body mass for a whole country and every last one of them owns a car...

Please confirm your comparisons before you publish. For example: The average body mass of those actually using cars has increased.

Hmmm... ice cream sales increase during the summer. Therefor ice cream causes hot weather. So. stay cool and tax ice cream :-)
ryuuguu
not rated yet Dec 17, 2008
S

And this is assuming that an average increase in body mass for a whole country and every last one of them owns a car...

The article actually states

Gathered by U.S. government agencies, the data used in the study described the use and performance of noncommercial passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) in 2005, the age and gender of drivers and passengers, and the changes in weight of Americans.

that it takes in to account demographics of poeple riding vehicles not all Americans.
Velanarris
not rated yet Dec 17, 2008
Lots of Americans are fat, easy fix.

Start releasing bengal tigers in the streets, hungry ones. I bet we'll start losing weight then(or the tigers will become obese).
Soylent
not rated yet Dec 17, 2008
Exercise reduce appetite!!!!


Have you ever met a professional cyclist?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.