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Can Your Friends Make You Fat

May 17, 2008
Can this be true? If your friends are fat you will also tend to be fat. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that spouses, family and friends all have an influence on your weight.

The study investigated the extent of the person-to-person spread of obesity. Researchers examined whether weight gain in one person was associated with weight gain in his or her friends, siblings, spouse and neighbors.

Amazingly, the study showed that obesity spreads through a social network. A friends weight gain or loss had a bigger influence than genetics. Friends of the same sex had more of an influenced than did friends of the opposite sex.

The study showed that a persons chance of becoming obese increased by 57 percent if they had a friend who became obese, 40 percent if their sibling became obese and 37 percent if their spouse became obese. There was no effect if an immediate neighbor became obese.

Oddly, enough no matter how far away a friend lived even hundreds of miles the effect on the weight gain or loss was the same. The researchers concluded that social distance is more important than geographical distance.

Thus researchers ruled out common environmental factors such as eating together as an influence on weight gain. Rather it seems that ideas and thoughts about weight were more important.

When someone observes a friend gaining weight they may accept the weight gain in themselves. They concluded that the behavior itself spreads form person to person. Having obese social contacts might change a persons tolerance for being obese and might influence the adoption of the behavior.

If your circle of friends and family become heavier you will think it is acceptable and also tend to gain weight. And if you have a spouse and friends who are thin you will also be thinner.

Contrary to what this study says, don't blame your friends if you are overweight. You have a free will and can choose your friends and what you put into your mouth. You choose the amount of exercise that you get. Dont use this study as a cope out to stay overweight.

The good news is that based on this study if you are overweight and want to lose weight find some new close friends who are thin. Go to the gym and befriend a person of the same sex who is lean and working to stay that way. Who knows this may be enough to influence you to lose weight.
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