We'd save billions of dollars in gas. Airlines would double their profits. A dearth of diabetes and other diseases would save billions of dollars more -- and put thousands of doctors on the street. McDonald's would sell not Big Macs but little steamed chicken snacks -- or watch its profits melt away. Productivity would rise, potentially creating tens of thousands more jobs or higher wages all around.
Add up the savings on health, food, clothing and efficiencies, and you could buy a professional home gym for every U.S. household -- or hand each $4,270 in cash.
First, let's put the meat on that $487 billion. The estimates below assume the average American adult is at least 20 pounds overweight, a figure nutritionists see as fair.
- Savings on fuel for cars and airlines due to their lighter loads would top $5 billion, according to industry studies. Researchers say each overweight driver burns about 18 additional gallons of gas a year, or just under a billion gallons altogether. Savings in the air are far greater: The jet-fuel savings alone could double North American airlines' forecast 2008 profits to $3.8 billion and maybe persuade them to stop stranding passengers because they can't afford the fuel for flights. As for oil imports, they'd be dented by less than 1%.
- Plus-sized clothing costs 10% to 15% more, so shoppers would save $10 billion on shirts, pants and dresses. And clothes might fit better too. Cynthia Istook, an associate professor in textile apparel at North Carolina State University, says the economies of making fewer sizes would be tremendous. Clothing makers could then afford to offer more variety in hip and bust sizes, rather than asking every woman to squeeze into an hourglass shape.
- Because 3,500 calories translates into a pound of fat, somewhere along the way, America's 227 million adults have eaten 16 trillion calories too many. That's 14 billion Big Mac meals, with fries and a soda. Eliminate those and you wipe out $81 billion, or McDonald's past four years of sales.
- If Americans were slim and maintained their weight by eating 150 fewer calories a day (half a slice of pizza), that could snip roughly 6.5%, or $20 billion a year, off U.S. farmers' sales (assuming no extra exports). Bob Young, the American Farm Bureau's chief economist, says farmers would cope. They'd switch some land from fattening seed oils and sugar beets to fruits and vegetables. Or they might grow corn for ethanol, or even open a hunting resort.
- The medical costs of obesity-related problems such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease run near $140 billion, or more than 6% of all health-care costs. That ballpark figure was calculated by Joel Cohen, an economic researcher for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, using data from a 1998 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Cohen reckons that if no one were fat, medical insurance costs would fall -- to everyone's delight -- and doctors and drug makers could do more preventive care. That sounds good, but Roland Sturm, a senior economist for Rand in Santa Monica, Calif., doubts anyone would pay for preventive care. More likely, he says, some doctors would be on the street. "They could drive cabs," he suggests.
- Productivity in the workplace would jump as people took fewer sick days and spent less time at work feeling unwell. Ross DeVol, the director of health economics at the Milken Institute, says the loss of productivity due to people showing up at work sick is "immense." Using a recent Milken report on the subject, he calculates that if no one were obese, the added output from workers and their caregivers would give the country a $257 billion boost. That's 1.8% of GDP, enough extra output to allow businesses to hire tens of thousands more workers or to raise wages, economists say. Or at least, that's the theory. Given bosses' love of expanding their profits and their own pay, you can count on some of this being spirited away. Just look at 2000 to 2005, when worker productivity rose 16.6% while median wages rose less than half that amount.
- "Jenny Craig would be very unhappy" if everyone were slim, says Rand's Sturm. And so she would, along with the rest of the $55 billion weight-loss industry. Trimmed-down citizens would be swapping their diet pills for bikinis and their gastric-banding for nose jobs.
it goes on to end with a section on what to do with all the money saved... but i thought this was interesting... i dont exactly agree with some of the things said in this one, but it's not for me to judge. :)