Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How Our Waists Are Wasting Gas

Men's Health Obesity Infographic, http://news.menshealth.com/cost-of-obesity/2012/05/09/

Weight loss is a complicated system. Many believe that at its core, the science of gaining or shedding pounds boils down to calories in versus calories out. But when you start adding in other factors, such as the amount of exercise a person gets, the amount of carbs they're eating, or if they have a thyroid problem, things can get complicated.

Now, as far as cars are concerned, gaining weight is a different (and much simpler) matter entirely. The heavier the car, the more energy it takes to use. This is true for both the weight of the car and the driver inside!  And we're apparently burning more gas than ever. Engineer Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois claims that "Growing obesity rates increase fuel consumption."

It isn't terribly difficult to see why Americans are burning an extra billion gallons of gas each year, compared to twenty or thirty years ago. The added stress of additional weight requires more fuel to be burned. Take the price of gas ($3-4) and you can quickly multiply the cost we incur annually. To make matters even more complicated, many drivers are still on the road with large gas guzzling vehicles, which become even less fuel efficient as passengers become larger.

On the bright side, Toyota has been leading the pack as far as car makers go, introducing new vehicles that have the best mileage on the market, with the intent of getting other automakers to focus more on efficiency than size or power. While that won't do anything to enforce healthier eating, perhaps we simply need to take a page from their home country. The Japanese government is involved in enforcing a weight loss program for citizens that requires men and women to not let their waistlines grow larger than 34 inches. If they don't maintain their health, their employers can be fined, which probably doesn't bode too well for the future career of that particular employee.

When you think of it that way, Japanese citizens in Toyota cars get to enjoy the full listed MPG of a car. Back in America, we have to ask ourselves- what can we do to combat obesity so that we don't succumb to this massive waste of gasoline? I've read stories on how car seats and other public transportation seats are being outfitted with slightly larger seats as newer models have come out over the years, in order to adjust to the growing size of the overall American population. You need not look further than the infographic above for proof! In my eye, that's taking a step backward by accepting our rising obesity, rather than trying to prevent it.

How do you feel about this issue? As we focus on making cars more efficient, should we also be concerned on keeping ourselves healthy? Or should automakers and companies continue to cater to growing waistlines by widening seats and employing other tactics?


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