A customer puts gas into a automobile in Miami, Fla.
A customer puts gas into a automobile in Miami, Fla. - 
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KAI RYSSDAL: Oil at $80 can only mean one thing. You and me paying more at the pump before too long. Marketplace's Amy Scott reports there may be a benefit to that.

Amy Scott: Higher gas prices could deflate a ballooning public health problem in this country, obesity. At least that's what one Washington University PhD student says. Charles Courtemanche looked at two decades worth of government health surveys. He found that when gas prices rose, people got more exercise. They also ate out less often. And, they lost weight.

Charles Courtemanche: We're all miserable about the high gas prices, but hey, here's a little silver lining.

Courtemanche predicts a dollar increase in gas prices today could reduce U.S. obesity by 15 percent in five years. Dan Sperling with the Institute of Transportation Studies at U.C. Davis isn't so sure.

Dan Sperling: I'd say it's highly unlikely, if not totally wrong.

Sperling's research shows that drivers barely change their behavior when prices rise.

Sperling: Most people respond to higher gasoline prices by buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, not by driving less.

But those cars tend to be smaller. Sperling says a little less wiggle room behind the wheel could inspire people to shed a few pounds.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

Follow Amy Scott at @amyreports