• Sep 20, 2009

Can not owning a car make you fatter? Iteems conventional wisdom would have it that people who don't own cars might tend to get more exercise having to walk everywhere they go, no? No. Well not completely, at least according to a new study that appears in the September issue of the Journal of Urban Health. While the study doesn't imply that walking isn't good exercise, it does take a closer look at where those people without cars are walking to. And if you happen to live in a poorer neighborhood, you're probably walking to a fast food restaurant, which is bad.

It's not a novel idea to think that you might be heavier if you live in an area with a lot of fast food options, but this study also takes into account that people with cars might be able to drive to find healthier dining options. And they were right. After studying 2,156 adults from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Study database, the researchers found that car owners weighed about 8.5 pounds more than those who didn't own cars on average.

That makes sense, but they also found that in neighborhoods with lots of fast food joints, non-car owners whose data they reviewed weighed 12 pounds more than car-less folks in areas without fast food restaurants, and 2.7 pounds more than their neighbors who owned cars. The dichotomy is that the skinniest people proved to be those who didn't have cars, but lived in areas with fewer fast-food restaurants. Which, as one might suspect, tends to be upscale neighborhoods. So if you live in an area with a lot of Mickey D's and KFC's, you might want to get yourself some wheels. Car ownership... it's the new Atkins!

[Source: Journal of Urban Health via L.A. Times Blog | Image: Tim Boyle/Getty]




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  • 25 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      They need to do a study showing how many children are scared of the clown.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I would like to quote good sir Mark Twain to answer this article:

        "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

        And in case some people don't get the first quote, I would like to quote Debito:

        "Breaking news: poor people eat a lot of crappy food!"
      • 5 Years Ago
      probably a reasonable article. i won a car, but only use it for 'special' occasions-less than 500 miles in almost 3 years now. i ride my bike everywhere, and there isn't a single fast food place within 10 miles of my house, so i'm pretty thin. i can't imagine riding a bike to go get a cheeseburger anyway-i always feel healthier after exercise so i couldn't imagine eating fatty crap and riding home.

      off topic: what is up with this comments section? i can type my entire comment and then sit back and watch my cursor spit out one letter at a time for the next 5 minutes. it's the only 'net forum i write to that does this. anyone else suffer cursor delay like this? i'm on a mac using Safari 4.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You are not alone in the cursor delay. It is a well known issue around here that Autoblog has the worst commenting section on the net. "Iteems conventional wisdom would have" them invest a bit of effort in improving the system. A spell checker might not be a bad idea either.
        • 5 Years Ago
        i meant OWN a car, not WON a car. i wish i hadn't had to pay for it...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wouldn't say that Los Angeles is representative of the United States as a whole.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I was in Micky Ds yesterday with my two oldest grand daughters when Ronald McDonald shows up. You would have thought it was Santa claus the way all the little kids were carrying on. lol Priceless, i'm tellin' ya.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Gotta remember this study was done in Los Angeles, which arguably has among the poorest mass transit of any major city in the world. Poor people who don't own a car in LA have a very small travel radius. And they probably can't ride bikes because they'd get stolen (not to mention LA's not exactly bike friendly, either).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Given high costs of cars, the car-owning population is going to be richer in most places. I agree, though, that poor public transportation system in LA and most of the US (New York being an obvious exception) means few in the middle class will travel by public transport. Also, the huge diets of poorer people seems to be a developed world thing, exacerbated in the States by a culture of fries and sugary soft drinks.

        I agree therefore, that the survey is really geared to LA-types and might be relevant in many places in the United States, maybe even others worldwide, but a lot of the world faces different problems.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is this the onion?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The troll apparently took a hike...Thanks Autoblog!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Breaking news: poor people eat a lot of crappy food!
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's what I'm thinking - they're mistaking correlation with causation. Poor people eat a lot of fast food because it's way cheaper to get a $1 double cheeseburger than it is to drive to the grocery store, get some skinless chicken breasts and all that goes into cooking them, some asparagus, etc etc. Guess what? Poor people tend to not own cars too. I can give you a similar study showing how shopping at Neiman Marcus makes you thinner too.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sadly the fix to this doesn't have to do with cars, but putting grocers back where McD's reign. Fast food is cheap food, but its hardly food. Kids raised on a diet of fast food, HFC and the like score poorly in school, have developmental disorders and get diabetes before their teens. The natural outcome of this is creating a generation of children who won't be competitive with those raised on better diets - pretty much securing their life in poverty.

      As much as I don't like studies like this, it applies in Chicago as well. Where I live on the northside I have a Whole Foods 2 blocks away, a Treasure Island 3, and plenty of options for transit to Farmers Markets or other grocers. If I lived on the Southside, there are areas where I could go a mile in any direction and not find a fresh vegetable or fruit anywhere, and bus/train service is poorer.

      On the Hipster-saturated west side, there are tons of restaurant and grocery options at all price points, ensuring that if you want something relatively healthy its there for the taking - without getting in a car.
      jma
      • 5 Years Ago

      Cash-for-Clunkers is not and never was a good idea and it has NOT helped America: (1) More than 60% of the vehicles purchased through program were Japanese cars, not American.(2) The old used cars traded-in are sitting in lots until the govt. cuts them up (at America's expense) and sells them as scrap to countries like Japan, at pennies on the dollar.(3) The program hurt the Mom-&-Pop used car dealers who rely on trade-ins to fuel their businesses, as well as the dealerships which re-sell the trade-ins or sell them to auction lots.(4) Economists are predicting that more than 50% of the new car sales through the program will default because many participants are purchasing cars that they can't afford to pay for...The cars will get repossessed and the banks will be left holding the bag....(5)The Mercury Contamination problem from components in the old cars !...(6) Billions of dollars which could have been used for the general good of America was handed to a small group of people...mostly the same people who always have their hands out for as much as they can bleed the system for...(7) The fact that any "positive environmental impact" will be negligible since owners of new cars will drive more and probably tend to drive faster... (8) Many auto dealerships have not yet received their payments from the government and don't know when they will receive them...And, lastly...(9) the massive indebtedness added to the debt being carried by many families who (a) now have car payments to make, on cars they probably can't afford or would never have bought if left to their own devices, while the old car was payment-free, AND (b) the fact that new cars require Collision insurance (another added expense) while most old cars do not carry collision insurance ....This is just another example of a poorly thought band-aid Obama-Krap program that is, like all others, a FAILURE which is back-firing on the American people!
      • 5 Years Ago
      In China,fewer and fewer people like to go to fastfood restaurant
        • 5 Years Ago
        In the China I live in it is difficult to get a seat at KFY or McDonalds and people stand in line in the cold and rain for an hour to get into Pizza Hut.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In the China I live in it is difficult to get a seat at KFY or McDonalds and people stand in line in the cold and rain for an hour to get into Pizza Hut.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder if that car runs on used fry oil?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Funny....but did the passenger take his drink and make Ronald McDonald hold the bag in his teeth?
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