LivingTraffic noise increases the risk of obesity

Traffic noise increases the risk of obesity

It has long been known that characteristic urban noises negatively affect city dwellers, beyond the inconvenience they cause – they bring about 32 million people in the old continent, according to the European Environment Agency, which estimates that noise causes 72,000 hospitalizations and 16,600 premature deaths annually.

In 2017, a team of scientists from Nottingham Trent University revealed that noise pollution could alter the heart rate. At that time, an initiative promoted by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) had also shown that pollution, but also noise levels, especially that related to that emitted by vehicles, as a later work discovered, explained more than 1,200 deaths that could be prevented in Barcelona.

Now, María Foraster, an expert in environmental epidemiology from the latter institution, has coordinated a new study in which it is highlighted that, precisely, the cacophony caused by traffic could cause in the long term an increase in the risk of suffering from obesity. According to Foraster and his colleagues in the journal Environment International , exposure to it creates significant stress and disrupts sleep patterns. Worse, hormone levels break down over time and blood pressure rises; glucose metabolism and appetite are equally affected.

A more serious problem than we think

“All of this could lead to chronic physiological alterations, which would explain the relationship that has been found between constant exposure to traffic noise, a widespread and more serious public health problem than is thought, and certain cardiovascular ailments, diabetes and obesity, ”Foraster said in a statement. “Our findings suggest that limiting it could help combat the latter’s epidemic,” he adds.

The researchers also looked at the extent to which air and rail traffic might play a role in this matter, but they admit they did not find a significant relationship. It does seem, however, that the hum of the trains could favor overweight, although not obesity.

To reach these conclusions, they took into account the changes over time in weight, height, body mass index, waist circumference and percentage of abdominal fat , as well as the exposure to noise emitted by road traffic of 3,796 adults who had participated in a Swiss research project.

“We observed that, indeed, those who are most have a greater risk of suffering from obesity. For example, an increase of 10 decibels in average noise – the World Health Organization maintains that traffic should not exceed 53 decibels, but 40% of Europeans are exposed to more than 55 – translated into a 17% increase in suffering from the ailment, ”says Foraster.

Referencia: Long-term exposure to transportation noise and its association with adiposity markers and development of obesity. Maria Foraster et al. Environment International (2018). DOI:

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