Airplane Over Train

Does Business Travel Bring More Obesity Risk?

We’re traveling again. For business, for pleasure, or simply for sanity. People are getting out and around because getting the vaccine means it’s safe again. Confinement brought many people some extra weight. But a new study is telling us that more business travel means more risk of obesity.

How can it be that this seems to work against us both ways?

A Correlation Measured Three Ways

The new observation about business travel comes from researchers at Emory. It’s retrospective and observational. Researchers looked at medical records data from the executive health practice at Emory University. Data on business travel came from self-reports. Researchers also factored in self-reports of sleep, exercise, working hours, alcohol, and tobacco. But they had no data on diet.

What they found was a correlation between business travel and obesity. People who travelled most were the most likely to have obesity. They measured it three ways – BMI, percent body fat, and visceral adiposity. All three measures supported the correlation. International travel seemed to have more effect than domestic.

However this relationship was not a straight line. It was a U-shaped curve. People in the sample with no business travel had more obesity that people with a little bit of travel. But beyond a point, obesity went up as the frequency of business travel rose. After adjusting for all the variables they had, researchers found a stronger relationship in women than in men.

Life Is Complicated

Life is complicated and business travel can add to those complications. So to simply say that business travel causes obesity is really not justified by this observational study. It is reasonable to suppose that a demanding schedule of business travel can create stresses that lead to changes in patterns for life that raise the odds for obesity. The factors are endless. These researchers controlled for some of them. Others – like dietary patterns – were not a part of this study. A significant omission.

So yes. People who travel a lot for business tend to have more obesity. The potential causes are many. The travel itself is just one of many factors at work in a complex relationship.

Furthermore, as we’ve learned over the past year, stressful confinement at home is no guarantee against gaining weight.

Click here for the study and here for further reporting on it. For additional research on this question, click here and here.

Airplane Over Train, painting by Natalia Goncharova / WikiArt

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July 14, 2021