THE PRICE OF OBESITY, CONT'D Fat people are pushing up the cost of airplane flights and contributing to air pollution, a new federal study suggests. Increasingly heavy passengers are making planes burn more fuel.

Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Moving that extra adipose tissue caused airlines to spend $275 million on 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000, the agency estimated in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"The obesity epidemic has unexpected consequences beyond direct health effects," said Deron Burton of the CDC. "Our goal was to highlight one area that had not been looked at before."

The extra fuel burned resulted in an estimated 3.8 million extra tons of carbon dioxide in the air, according to the study.

LOW-CARB DIETS, WASTING AWAY The clock is ticking for makers of foods aimed at low-carb dieters, as U.S. consumers are abandoning the protein-heavy regimens.

In just a few months, a barrage of new low-carb products like Oreo CarbWells and Ben & Jerry's Carb Karma ice cream have crowded supermarket shelves.

But the percentage of Americans following carb-averse diets like Atkins and South Beach dropped to 4.6 percent in September from 9 percent in January, according to research firm The NPD Group.

Sales of The South Beach Diet book slowed to about 20,000 copies a week in early October, down from around 70,000 a week in early March, according to Nielsen BookScan.

"The bloom is off the rose," said Bob Goldin, executive vice president of the food industry consulting firm Technomic. "It doesn't look like the market has any staying power."

Even former President Bill Clinton, a lover of fast food who underwent emergency quadruple bypass heart surgery in early September, said last week on ABC's "Primetime Live" that he wished he had foregone his relatively recent low-carb regimen of steaks and cheeseburgers in favor of a diet lower in fat.

Atkins Nutritionals Inc. said in September that it had hired a turnaround specialist and will cut jobs.

SO NOTED "Let's not kid ourselves about what's happening. We don't have a national effort for patient safety."

-- Lucian L. Leape of Harvard University, contributor to "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System," commenting on the fifth anniversary of the landmark report calling for widespread reforms to reduce medical errors.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports