Study: obesity is 'socially contagious'

Filed under: Just For Moms, Just For Dads, Relatives, Siblings, Nutrition: Health

Take a look at your closest friends and family. According to researchers at the University of California, if any of them are obese, you have an increased chance of becoming obese as well. They found this to be true even if those close friends and family live thousands of miles away. Rather than blaming it on similar eating habits among those who are close, they say it is possibly due to the fact that those with obese friends and family members have a distorted view of what is an acceptable weight.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of people participating in the Framingham Heart Study, which has been tracking the health of the same group of 12,067 people for over fifty years. They found that a person's chances of becoming obese went up by 57% if a friend became obese, 40% if a sibling did and 37% if a spouse did. If it was a very close friend, the chances of becoming obese as well almost tripled.

"If you're just a little bit heavy and everyone around you is quite heavier, you will feel good when you look in a mirror," said Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center.

These researchers aren't suggesting that you drop your fat friends in order to lose weight. But two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and experts think that maybe treating them in groups rather than individually might be more successful in helping them drop that weight.

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