If your friends and family are gaining weight, chances are you will too. A startling new study suggests that obesity is "socially contagious", meaning you're more likely to gain weight if a close friend or family member has become obese.
Researchers from Harvard University and the University of California tracked 12,067 people from the Framingham Heart Study over three decades and discovered that a person's risk of obesity more than doubled if a friend became obese.
Surprisingly, friends had a greater influence on weight gain than relatives or people living in the same house. People whose siblings became obese were 40 percent more likely to become obese themselves. If a spouse became obese, the risk of obesity increased by 37 percent.
Geography, natural age-related weight gain and other factors affecting weight, such as smoking cessation, has no affect on the risk of "social" obesity.
Obesity experts reviewing these findings say that people tend to look towards their friends and family for what is an acceptable weight. This study confirms that having friends or family who become obese can make people feel better about any weight they happen to gain as well.
This study was published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.
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