CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Well into what paleontologists of the future might call the Fast Food Drive-Thru Epoch, the most complete body survey conducted in 50 years shows Americans have super-sized, particularly in the waist and hips.
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TC2, a company based in the Raleigh suburb of Cary, used light-pulsing, 3-D scanner technology to measure some 10,000 Americans of all ages and ethnicities. The SizeUSA survey confirmed that all those extra french fries have come with a price.
The study was funded by clothing manufacturers, the military and colleges and universities, all of whom have a keen interest in body sizes.
Size 8 has long been thought to represent the measurements of the average American woman. In the clothing industry, a size 8 officially is supposed to be a 35-inch bust, a 27-inch waist, and 37½-inch hip.
But in the survey, white women ages 18 to 25 came in, on average, at 38-32-41, with white women ages 36 to 45 coming in at 41-34-43.
In truth, some manufacturers made the adjustment years ago. Some sell a size 10 as a size 8 to flatter women’s vanity, TC2’s Jim Lovejoy, who conducted the survey, said in a telephone interview Monday.
The last such survey of Americans’ bodies was in 1941, and it was a low-tech undertaking, involving measuring tapes.
Behind the technology
TC2’s technology involves a 3-D measurement system in which four strategically placed cameras register more than 200,000 data points on the body. The data are then fed into measurement software that spits out 200 accurate body measurements in less than a minute.
“By using the body scanner we know it is consistently accurate,” said Lovejoy. In contrast, the accuracy of a measuring tape “depends on where it is placed and how tight you pull it.”
The 10,000 subjects were grouped into gender, age and ethnicity. The survey also collected information such as ZIP code, annual household income, marital status, lifestyle, education, employment status and clothing preferences.
“From looking at the interim survey data, we can see the U.S. population has grown taller and heavier, but we are growing heavier faster than we are taller,” Lovejoy said. “If you look at the grade rules for most manufacturers today, they do not reflect what we are finding in our size survey.”
Because of its size and breadth, the survey also will allow a closer look at the typical body size of different minority groups, including blacks, Hispanics and Asians.
“Minority populations were not well represented in previous studies, which included no Hispanics or Asians,” Lovejoy said.
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