Could living next to busy roads be making you fat?

Living next to a busy main road with lots of traffic causes people to gain weight, according to new research.

A study undertaken by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden showed that stress caused by large amounts of traffic noise can fool a person’s body into storing more fat.

The research has shown that the risk of obesity also doubles for people who live close to a railway line or an airport flight path, with the average person gaining 0.2cm for every five decibels over the normal level of 45db.

Stress from noise can fool the body into storing fat

Dr Andrei Pyko, lead author of the study, said: “Traffic noise is a common and increasing environmental exposure, primarily due to on-going urbanisation and growth of the transport sector.

“Road traffic is the dominating source, followed by railway and aircraft noise. Health effects related to traffic noise are widespread and span from annoyance, sleep disturbances and changes in stress hormone levels to adverse effects on the cardiovascular system.”

The findings have suggested that people who live in more rural surroundings would find it easier to lose weight, with those living in central London particularly at risk.

Noise levels around Buckingham Palace and Oxford Street regularly rise to around 80db, meaning that according to the study, the average person’s waist would be 1.4cm larger living there.

Dr Pyko’s study analysed data from 5,075 people between the age of 43 and 66, who lived in five different suburbs of the Swedish capital Stockholm.

Traffic linked to increased risk of diabetes and strokes

Assessing how much road, rail and aircraft noise they had been exposed to since 1999, and factoring in other variables like stress and lifestyle, the study then looked at how noise had affected their health.

According to the researchers, the results are particularly worrying as obesity around the waist is particularly damaging to health, and has been linked to an increased risk of diseases like diabetes.

Previous studies have also shown that road noise can cause an increased risk of strokes in older people, while researched at Imperial College London found a link between high air traffic noise and increased hospital admissions.