Biologic and epigenetic impact of commuting to work by car or using public transportation: A case-control study

Alfredo Morabia, Fang Fang Zhang, Maya A. Kappil, Janine Flory, Frank E. Mirer, Regina M. Santella, Mary Wolff, Steven B. Markowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Commuting by public transportation (PT) entails more physical activity and energy expenditure than by cars, but its biologic consequences are unknown. Methods: In 2009-2010, we randomly sampled New York adults, usually commuting either by car (n = 79) or PT (n = 101). Measures comprised diet and physical activity questionnaires, weight and height, white blood cell (WBC) count, C reactive protein, (CRP) gene-specific methylation (IL-6), and global genomic DNA methylation (LINE-1 methylation). Results: Compared to the 101 PT commuters, the 79 car drivers were about 9years older, 2kg/m 2 heavier, more often non-Hispanic whites, and ate more fruits and more meats. The 2005 guidelines for physical activity were met by more car drivers than PT users (78.5% vs. 65.0%). There were no differences in median levels of CRP (car vs. PT: 0.6 vs. 0.5mg/dl), mean levels of WBC (car vs. PT: 6.7 vs. 6.5cells/mm 3), LINE-1 methylation (car vs. PT: 78.0% vs. 78.3%), and promoter methylation of IL-6 (car vs. PT: 56.1% vs. 58.0%). Conclusions: PT users were younger and lighter than car drivers, but their commute mode did not translate into a lower inflammatory response or a higher DNA methylation, maybe because, overall, car drivers were more physically active.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-233
Number of pages5
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Epigenetic
  • Inflammation
  • Physical activity
  • Transportation


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