Thick Around the Middle? Blame it on the Traffic
Don’t blame it on chips and beer. Or cake and ice cream.
Road traffic noise is linked to a significantly heightened risk of developing a midriff bulge in people age 60 and under, according to research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
Exposure to a combination of road traffic, rail, and aircraft noise may pose the greatest risk of acquiring a spare tire — otherwise known as central obesity, and thought to be one of the most harmful types of fat deposition around the body.
The heightened risk of a larger waist rose from 25 per cent among those exposed to only one source to almost double for those exposed to all three sources.
The researchers assessed how much road traffic, rail, and aircraft noise 5075 people aged between 43 and 66 living near Stockholm, Sweden had been exposed to in the preceding 3 to 7 years.
Participants also completed a detailed questionnaire covering lifestyle, current state of health, levels of psychological distress, insomnia and job strain. They were also asked about environmental noise pollution from road traffic, trains, and planes.
A larger waist was significantly associated with exposure to any of the three sources of noise, but the link was strongest for aircraft noise; a larger waist:hip ratio was associated with road traffic and aircraft noise only.
There seemed to be a cumulative effect, however: the more sources of noise pollution a person was exposed to at the same time, the greater their risk of central obesity seemed to be.
The findings were not influenced by socioeconomic factors, lifestyle, or exposure to ambient air pollution from local road traffic.
Because this was an observational study, no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, said researchers, nor were they able to assess levels of residential sound insulation or the location of the participants’ bedrooms.