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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Obesity Is Contagious?

This is a very interesting study. But before the headline makes you start raising your eyebrows, this has nothing to do with microbes.

Data from a 2007 research published in the New England Journal of Medicine seem to show that obesity is "socially contagious," meaning, people are inclined to be obese too when their friends and family become obese.

The researchers, who are sociology professors from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, found that a person's probability of becoming obese increases by:

57% if he/she has a friend who becomes obese
40% if he/she has a sibling who becomes obese
37% if his/her spouse becomes obese
171% if one of his/her mutual friends becomes obese

The researchers noted that the chances of becoming obese still hold even if hundreds of miles separate them from friends or family.

It was also observed that the odds of following the path to obesity is strongest among the same sex - among friends, and siblings, of the same gender. The influence of a friend, or kin, of the same sex, outweighs that of the spouse due to this same sex theory.

This social phenomenon, by the way, also holds true on the other end of the weighing scale. People also tend follow suit when a friend or family member starts losing weight.

Above results were culled from 32 years of data, analyzed for its association with obesity, from the Framingham Heart Study involving more than 12,000 participants. [read: Being Fat Is Symptom Of A Toxic Body]

I'm inclined to believe these findings. Friends and family influence our lifestyle. When they are active physically, you tend to be so too. When they lead passive lives, chances are you are living the same way. And I do agree that friends exert a far greater impact in this regard.

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