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America’s Weight Gain Has Supersized Some Surprising Things

Here's weighty news: Americans’ expanding waistlines have caused some alarming beefing-up in places you wouldn't expect.


American Medical Response, the largest ambulance company in the United States, introduced bariatric ambulances in 2001. Their cots can accommodate up to 1,600 pounds, compared with older models that hold only up to 800 pounds.


A standard-size casket for adults used to be 24 inches wide, but
28-inch-wide models are becoming more common, according to the Casket
& Funeral Supply Association of America (CFSA), a trade association for the funeral-supply industry, based in Lake Bluff, Illinois. One company, Goliath Casket, began making 29-inch caskets in the 1980s (the new models hold
up to 1,000 pounds) but sold only about one per year. Now they ship half
a dozen oversize models every month.

Fuel Usage

Extra pounds cause cars, trucks, and planes to use more gasoline and jet fuel. Americans consume at least
one billion more gallons of fuel today than they would if they weighed
what they did on average in 1960.

CT Scanners

Imaging companies such as Siemens and General Electric are building new
equipment to accommodate Americans’ growing girths. Siemens’s CT scanner
went from a 60-centimeter (23.6-inch) diameter in 1997 to an
80-centimeter (31.5-inch) diameter in 2011, a 25 percent increase.

Santa Costumes

In 1996,’s largest offering was size 2X, and oversize suits accounted for just 12 percent of sales. Today, estimates that size 3X suits account for up to 20 percent of sales.

What Hasn’t Changed but Needs to: Airline Seats

Based on testing standards designed almost 50 years ago, airline seats are meant to restrain a 170-pound passenger, but today the average
American man weighs 195 pounds, and the average woman, 165. These seats
may not be as safe for heavy passengers during a crash.

Sources: Wall Street Journal,, ABC News, the Atlantic, the New York Times

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest