A new study says an extra 1 billion gallons of gasoline is burned each year because of overweight drivers and vehicle passengers. The mathematical model tied together federal data on fuel consumption and weight gain among Americans from 1960 to 2002. A University of Illinois professor who headed the study quipped: "I had no idea the numbers would be this big."

The study says 1.7 million cars could be filled with gas for a year if vehicle occupants would slim down. Factors that were eliminated in the study included cargo weight and poor vehicle maintenance that reduced fuel economy. The survey is a reminder that the average American now weighs 24 more pounds than in 1960.

I wonder if the study address vehicle selection, or if it's based just on lost fuel economy due to a heavier load. Wouldn't larger consumers favor gas-guzzling fullsize SUVs for more comfort? If more people were thinner, would they be buying compact and mid-sized cars instead of big trucks? Can anyone from Toyota marketing clue us in on the waistline psychographics of Prius consumers?

[Source: Jon Hilkevitch/Chicago Tribune]

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