Sunday, October 18, 2009

Is Being Fat Contagious?

No. Really? When our friends get fat, we get fat.

Two distinguished researchers spent five years looking at the 5,000+ participants of the Framingham Heart Study (begun in 1948 and continued for two generations) to see what the effects of the relationships among the participants was. Here's their stunning discovery:

Obesity spreads more by association than genes
"In 1948 fewer than 10% of Framingham residents were obese. By 1985, 18% were, and today about 40% are. What changed? Social norms of diet and physical appearance." Wired, Oct 2009
By studying the Framingham folks as an interconnected network rather than a mass of individuals, the two researchers made this intriguing discovery:
Obesity spread like a virus. Weight gain had a stunning infection rate. If one person become obese, the likelihood that his friend would follow suit increased by 171 percent.
And, your friends are more predictive of your size than your spouse:
"Having an obese spouse raised the risk of becoming obese by 37 percent. If a friend became obese, the risk skyrocketed by 171 percent."
Moral: hang out with friends who are or are getting to the size you want to be. ER Fat Burn club anyone?

It works for happiness, too, they say.

4 comments: said...

Wow! Now it makes sense. I had always been very aware and selective of the food I ate until I started dating my boyfriend (now husband). He was a fast food junkie and pizza man. We would have a night out and I inevitably would eat what he ate, including jaunts to the neighborhood ice cream parlor at 9pm!

As an "enlightened" adult, you'd think I'd know better... especially as the pounds started to pack on but it was easier to just eat the way he ate and certainly easier to cook that way too - in my mind, that is.

Thankfully, I found ER and now we eat exactly what our bodies need for energy and health! Whether we dine out or eat in, we can choose the best foods - with flavor and fullness and never feel hungry! The best part, is the pounds just melt off. said...

Yeah, this seems like common sense.

If your friends smoke, you are more likely to be a smoker.

If your friends drink, you are more likely to drink too.

And if your friends are overweight, you are probably obese as well.

Another thing that occurred to me was things like exercise, meaning if your friends do not like to exercise or don't like sports, you most likely do not either.


Eat Well. Live Well.

Robin said...

Kim this was an interesting post but I can't agree!

I have many friends that have battled weight - I stayed slim,

I never drank alcohol even when my friends (and hubby) enjoy their beer,

I had many friends who didn't smoke but I did, note I said DID because Dr. Heidi helped me stop smoking a year ago!!!!!!!

Sorry but I feel this study was a waste of time and money.

Doesn't it make more sense to look at the quality of food from 1948 to 1985 instead of friends being predictive of our size? Few people eat real food today or in 1985 compared to 1948.

Thanks for an interesting article but I really do think it's all about REAL FOOD.

P.S. I am an ER grad because I wanted to learn about real food - it worked - maybe a little too good...

Judy said...

While I don't question that these things are factors in weight, happiness or anything else, it concerns me when too much credit is given to factors outside of the individual. Self-responsibility is the ultimate issue. Even hereditary predispositions play a part, but even DNA can and does change. We are a package-deal and are responsible for managing & guarding our own power and energy.
Judy Greenough