How much energy is stored in American body fat?

According to the CDC, the average American is 23 pounds overweight. That’s a lot of extra weight we’re hauling around all the time. And we all know that fat is just food energy that’s been stored for later use by the body… so how much energy are Americans storing in their bulbous midsections? Let’s find out. (If you’d like a musical accompaniment for your reading, feel free to start the following video.)

At the time of this writing, there were 316 million Americans. So, we can find out the total amount of excess body fat in America pretty easily…

 23 lbs/American * 316,000,000 Americans = 7,268,000,000 lbs

That’s 7.3 billion pounds of excess fat we’re working with. In terms of size, it’s 129 million cubic feet – enough fat to completely fill in Lake Crabtree. There’s got to be enough energy stored in all that fat to do something with…

As many dieters know, one pound of fat is equivalent to about 3,500 food calories (which are actually kilocalories). Each kilocalorie, in turn, is equivalent to 4184 joules (the fancy scientific unit for measuring energy). By simple division, the kilocalorie is equivalent to 4.184 kilojoules or .004184 megajoules. Again, this makes for simple math:

7,268,000,000 lbs * 3500 kcal/lb * .004184 MJ/kcal = 106,432,592,000 MJ

That’s 106 billion megajoules of energy (or 106 petajoules). But most of us have no idea what a megajoule is. So let’s put it in perspective… That’s enough power to run the entire national electricity grid for 3 days. That’s 18 million barrels of oil, more than the total daily production of all US oil fields. Even using the world’s largest oil tankers, you’d still need nine ships to haul that much oil… and it would fetch around $1.2 billion dollars at current oil prices. That’s 100 times more energy than released by the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated.

Fat Energy Graph

Let’s be honest – this is pretty gross.

That’s right. Americans are hauling around enough energy in their body fat to power the whole country for three days. Time to go on a diet.

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