If Friends Are Fat, Will You Be Too?

Written by BOB STEIN
Source: The Miami Herald

Obesity can spread from one person to another like the flu or a fad, researchers reported Wednesday in a first-of-its-kind study that helps explain — and could help fight — one of the nation’s biggest public health problems.


The study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that ”social networks” play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual’s chances of gaining weight, transmitting an increased risk of becoming obese from wives to husbands, from brothers to brothers and from friends to friends.The researchers found that when one spouse became obese, the other was 37 percent more likely to do so in the next two to four years, compared to other couples.

If a man became obese, his brother’s risk rose by 40 percent. The risk rose even more sharply among friends — between 57 and 171 percent, depending on whether they considered each other mutual friends. Moreover, friends affected friends’ risk even when they lived far apart, and the influence cascaded through three degrees of separation before petering out, the researchers found.

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