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Americans, on average, have gained enough weight during the past 40 years to cancel out automakers' vehicle-lightweighting efforts such as using lighter components or removing spare tire, reflecting an additional challenge automakers face to meet progressively more strict fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas emissions standards. The information comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a recent Automotive News report.

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."