Navigation Links
Study: Surge in obesity correlates with increased automobile usage
Date:5/11/2011

Junk food, video games and a lack of exercise all have received their fair share of blame for the spiraling epidemic of obesity in the U.S. But according to a University of Illinois researcher, public health enemy No. 1 for our supersized nation may very well be the one staple of modern life most Americans can't seem to live without one (or more) of: the automobile.

Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and the director of the simulation and optimization laboratory at Illinois, says that the surge in passenger vehicle usage in the U.S. between the 1950s and today may be associated with surging levels of obesity.

"You can think of obesity as an energy imbalance," Jacobson said. "People consume food, which is a form of energy, and then they expend it in their activities. But if you look over the last 60-plus years, the automobile has become our primary mode of transportation so much so, in fact, we have literally designed our way of life around it. It is that energy imbalance that ultimately may lead to obesity."

To analyze the relationship between obesity and vehicle use, Jacobson and students Douglas M. King and Rong Yuan looked at annual vehicle miles traveled per licensed driver as a surrogate measure for a person's total sedentary time.

Previously, Jacobson studied the effects of extra driver and passenger weight due to growing obesity trends in the U.S. causing excessive fuel consumption.

Jacobson said this new study reverse-engineers the relationship between weight and driving.

"What we did before was based on physics: You add more weight to a vehicle, it consumes more gasoline, and we burn more gasoline on an aggregate level," he said. "This then raises the question, 'Is the reverse true?' If we drive more, are we going to become heavier as a nation?"

After analyzing data from national statistics measured between 1985 and 2007, Jacobson discovered vehicle use correlated "in the 99-percent range" with national annual obesity rates.

"If we drive more, we become heavier as a nation, and the cumulative lack of activity may eventually lead to, at the aggregate level, obesity," he said.

Jacobson chose annual vehicle miles traveled as a proxy for a person's sedentary time because inactivity is most obvious when you are sitting in a car.

"When you are sitting in a car, you are doing nothing, so your body is burning the least amount of energy possible," he said. "And if you are eating food in your car, it becomes even worse."

The sedentary lifestyle that automobile use enables coupled with the prevalent role it plays in increasing the sprawl of our cities, towns and suburbs is the "societal price we pay for always being in a rush to get places," Jacobson said.

"For the last 60-plus years, we've literally built our society around the automobile and getting from point A to point B as quickly as we can. Because we choose to drive rather than walk or cycle, the result is an inactive, sedentary lifestyle. Not coincidentally, obesity also became a public health issue during this period."

Before the automobile became such a prevalent mode of transportation for the vast majority of Americans, "it took much more energy just to live," Jacobson said.

"The way our communities were built, the way we bought and prepared our food, even the heating and cooling systems in our living environments just about everything took more physical energy. Over time, that has been eliminated."

Similarly, in developing nations that are just beginning to incorporate passenger vehicles into their way of life, obesity is on the rise.

"In places like China and India, where the automobile is increasingly competing with cycling and walking as a mode of transportation, they are observing more obesity," Jacobson said.

Jacobson, who also holds appointments as a professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering, of civil and environmental engineering, and of pediatrics in the College of Medicine at Illinois, says researchers and policy-makers have not focused as aggressively as they should have on the automobile as a potential culprit of obesity.

"As a society, what we should be doing is encouraging activity in our daily routines," Jacobson said. "Ironically, the obstacle to that is the automobile. So what we really need to think about is how we use cars. What we really have to do is look at the system of issues that affect obesity, and come up with a national policy that covers all of these issues to address obesity. If we try to solve these societal problems in a vacuum, we will continue to get poor outcomes and make limited progress in addressing these issues."

To push the limits of their analysis, Jacobson and his team hypothesized how obesity could be eliminated completely through driving less.

"To completely eliminate obesity, every driver would have to reduce their driving by about 12 miles per day, which is around a third of the average daily miles traveled in the United States," Jacobson said. "But here's the catch: We have to still do everything we are currently doing."

How do we continue to do what we have been doing and still eliminate obesity?

"It's effectively impossible," Jacobson said. "But if every licensed driver reduced their travel by one mile per day, in six years the adult obesity rate would be 2.16 percent lower. In other words, almost 5 million fewer adults would be classified as obese based on the 2007 adult population. At the aggregate, if we drive less, not only will our carbon footprint be smaller, we will also lose more weight as a nation."

Ultimately, Jacobson said, we are going to have to rethink the way we use our automobiles if we want to address obesity.

"We have had 60-plus years of infrastructure that has facilitated the obesity epidemic," he said. "How do you turn that around overnight? You don't. But you can make some changes. I am not convinced that tactical interventions like taking soda machines out of schools and adding 15 minutes of recess time will have an enduring impact. I do believe we need to re-think how we live as a society and effect policy changes that strategically focus on the root problems, not just the symptoms."


'/>"/>

Contact: Phil Ciciora
pciciora@illinois.edu
217-333-2177
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

Related medicine news :

1. Study: Choice between stroke-prevention procedures influenced by patient age
2. UNC study: Obese 3-year-olds show early warning signs for future heart disease
3. New Study: Improved Immune System with Gene-Eden, a Natural Antiviral Supplement that Targets Chronic Viruses
4. Henry Ford Hospital study: Shoulder function not fully restored after surgery
5. Study: Federal funds support health depts., but leadership is key
6. Study: Kidney disease a big risk for younger, low-income minorities
7. Study: Mechanomyography to be accurate in detecting nerves during minimally invasive spine surgery
8. Study: Low Levels of Vitamin D Linked to Higher Rates of Asthma in African American Kids
9. Study: Child health may suffer in strong economy
10. Study: Social influence playing role in surging autism diagnoses
11. Children's Rights Group Agrees with New Study: Infant Circumcision Causes 100 Deaths Each Year in US
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Study: Surge in obesity correlates with increased automobile usage
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... 2016 , ... With the number of pain management programs available for people ... the one that works for them. When an inventor from Suisun City, Calif., was ... decided to share it with others. , He developed a prototype for PRO GO ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 02, 2016 , ... ... of its SaaS LIMS, CloudLIMS Lite. CloudLIMS Lite helps biobanks, clinical, research and ... storing, shipping and disposal. The new version is a faster and a more ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Yisrayl Hawkins, at The House of Yahweh in Abilene, Texas, ... Bible Prophecy. Yisrayl says this generation, known as the Last Generation, started in 1934 ... details line up exactly with Bible Prophecy – a protected way for those who ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 02, 2016 , ... Date aired: November ... Type 2 Diabetes: The Owner’s Manual, http://realtimepressrelease.com/press-releases-tagged-with/daryl-wein , Sharon Kleyne, ... Water, Global Climate Change and Your Health radio program syndicated on Voice of ...
(Date:11/30/2016)... ... November 30, 2016 , ... ... Deloitte Wisconsin 75, an annual ranking and recognition of the largest closely held ... list, having ranked from 2008-2016. In addition, Standard Process was awarded the Talent ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:12/2/2016)... America held the largest share in the ECG ... population and demand for remote monitoring ECG devices. On the ... is expected to witness the highest growth rate during the ... (U.S.), Becton, Dickinson and Company (U.S.), Medtronic plc ( ... ) and Mindray Medical International Limited ( China ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... India , December 2, 2016 ... report "In Vitro Diagnostics/IVD Market by Product (Instruments, ... Hematology), Application (Diabetes, Oncology, Cardiology, Nephrology, Infectious Diseases) ... global market is valued at USD 60.22 Billion ... at a CAGR of 5.5% during the forecast ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... 2, 2016 On Thursday, December ... excellence in research, development and innovation in the biopharmaceutical ... was held in the presence of Sergey Tsyb, Vice ... Russian Federation , Natalia Sanina, First Vice Chairman ... , Head of Roszdravnadzor, National Service of Control in ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: