New Study: Obesity is Socially Contagious

By: Lindsey Ward Email
By: Lindsey Ward Email

July 26, 2007

The study asked the question is being over weight socially contagious and after monitoring data from over 12,000 people they found the answer is yes.

Researchers say obesity is a disease that spreads like a virus from person to person.

"Obesity spreads through friends and through spouses and through siblings," said James Fowler, Researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

Among married couples, when one spouse becomes over weight, the risk to the other increases by 37 percent and for siblings the risk jumps to 40 percent.

However, it's your friends that are the most potentially harmful. If he or she becomes obese, it increases your risk by nearly 60 percent.

“We know, for example, your genes have an impact on whether you're obese but this really suggests that your social environment might matter even more,” said Fowler.

Stuffing food in your mouth may not be the only problem, but your eyes could be deceiving you.

“So what happens is you look around to the people to whom you're connected and you see that they're gaining weight so you start changing your ideas about what is an acceptable body size,” said Nicholas Christakis, Researcher at Harvard Medical School.

There is good news coming out of this study. It suggests if your friends help you gain weight they can help you loose weight as well.

The National Institutes of Health funded the study.


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