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Most crash tests simulate normal-size drivers, yet two thirds of Americans are overweight, with roughly a third of Americans being classified as obese. A new study finds that obese males are at higher risk of injury during accidents.  (Source: Rutgers)
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America has a big problem.  The problem is that many Americans are too large.  

In 2009, 30 percent of children were overweight in 30 states.  Adult obesity rates are similar, with most states having a 25 percent or more adult obesity rate.  And obesity in America continues to rise; last year obesity rates did not decrease in a single state, but increased in 20 states.

Obesity can cause plenty of health issues -- heart disease, Type II diabetes, depression, impotence, and cancer.  Now researchers have discovered another danger of being overweight -- car accidents.

According to the study obese men were more likely to suffer severe injuries to the upper body during a car accident than slightly overweight and normal weight adult males.  The trend was not replicated in adult women.

The study was performed using at the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsinin Milwaukee using cutting edge simulations.  It may prove a pivotal work, as currently most crash tests use normal weight dummies -- a model that seems impractical for a large portion of the American population. 

By contrast the researchers' computer models created "fat" dummies.  The results seem accurate, based on comparison with real world data on head on collisions from the federal National Automotive Sampling System.  The data shows that obese men are indeed at greater risk of suffering serious head, face, chest and spine injuries.  Interestingly, the data indicates that slightly overweight (not obese) people suffer a lower rate of injury.  Injuries in women don't clearly correlate with weight, but overall women are at greater risk of abdominal injury.

Interestingly those numbers -- and the simulation -- indicate that the approximately 33 percent of American drivers who are mildly overweight may be safer than their normal weight counterparts.  However, for the approximately 33 percent of Americans that are obese, the picture is not pretty.

The study was published in the online journal 
Public Library of Science Medicine.

The authors hope the data will help convince automakers to build special models of cars better suited to handle Americans' greater girth.





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