Like I Needed Another Reason To Lose Weight

By Darcy Cowan 01/04/2010

ResearchBlogging.orgNow it turns out that in addition to all of the other health risks of being overweight we have to worry about, we are also in greater danger in car crashes. At least for us men.

Men tend to carry a larger proportion of their mass in the upper body than do women. The purpose of this study, published this week in PLoS Medicine, was to investigate whether this translates into a higher proportion of injury in this area as well. The study focused on frontal collisions and separated the data by sex to obtain a higher level of detail than in previous studies. It also incorporated both real-world and computer modelled data in an effort to better understand the factors relating BMI and injury distribution.

The study did indeed find that there is a higher chance of injury and of serious injury with increasing BMI as shown in the graphs below.

As these graphs show women only see a very slight increase in injury the further up the BMI ladder they climb.While the relation isn’t especially well understood this is consistent with the more distributed weight gain that women experience. It would seem that the higher center of gravity of males may be the significant factor in these situations.

Curiously the researchers found a U-shaped correlation between BMI and serious abdominal injury for women, in other words women saw an increased risk at both high and low BMI. I guess all those supermodels should be very careful on the roads.

These results may lead to increased safety features in cars to account for the different body types of drivers. We should also remember that high BMI is only a proxy for obesity and there will always be a wide variety of body shapes in the population.

Zhu, S., Kim, J., Ma, X., Shih, A., Laud, P., Pintar, F., Shen, W., Heymsfield, S., & Allison, D. (2010). BMI and Risk of Serious Upper Body Injury Following Motor Vehicle Crashes: Concordance of Real-World and Computer-Simulated Observations PLoS Medicine, 7 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000250

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0 Responses to “Like I Needed Another Reason To Lose Weight”

  • Well done for picking this up, and beating me to it! It’s strange – I guess intuitively, one would have thought the fat would act as a cushion…

  • mmmm, What I would like to know is why the upswing in serious abdominal injury rates for low BMI women, a lack of cushioning effects?

  • That’s what I thought on first reading – that there’s little or no cushioning effect if you’re a particularly skinny woman – & perhaps the different shape of the pelvis (ie broader, more ‘open’) has an effect as well?

  • I noticed that the data was only collected for drivers, not passengers, so there should not be any gender bias on that basis. I wonder if there was any relationship between BMI and/or gender and the type of vehicle. I’d guess that overweight males would be more likely to drive bigger vehicles. I wonder what effect this would have on injury rates and types.

  • you guess about males and bigger cars looks fairly spot on.

    “A greater proportion of female drivers than male drivers were driving passenger cars, were wearing seatbelts, and were in vehicles in which an airbag deployed. Female drivers were also driving relatively newer cars. Male drivers were driving vehicles with a higher vehicle weight and ΔV during the crash and were more likely to be involved in crashes involving alcohol use, ejection, and rollover.”

    I would still like to see a further breakdown of car size vs BMI to see how much of an effect there is.

  • “Male drivers were driving vehicles with a higher vehicle weight and ΔV during the crash and were more likely to be involved in crashes involving alcohol use, ejection, and rollover.”

    I would expect that these effects would swamp differences based on body shape and fat distribution. I’d be keen to see each of these correlated to BMI.