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Highlighting innovative "outside the box" ideas, programs, research and products addressing the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Your Friends and Family May Be Making You Fat!

Researchers from Harvard University and the University of California at San Diego recently published results from a study that effectively concluded that obesity can spread from person to person like a common cold or fashion fad - thus providing another explanation for the cause and continued growth of obesity in our society. The study followed 12,000 people over a 32 year period and found that "social networks" have a significant role in determining an individual's chances of gaining weight. In fact, researchers found that a person was 40% more likely to become obese if they had an obese sibling and 37% more likely if they had an obese spouse. But the news didn't end there. Perhaps the most startling finding was that a person was 57% more likely to become obese if a casual friend became obese, but was 170% more likely to become obese if a very close friend became obese.

"We were stunned to find that people who are hundreds of miles away have just as much impact on a person's weight status as friends who are right next door," said James Fowler, a Sociologist from the University of California and one of the study's authors . "And so what this suggests is that it's not the case that this causal relationship is due to people eating together or exercising together. Rather, it has to do with them sharing ideas about what healthy behavior is like."

So remarkable are the findings of this study, that it's being reported it may lead to the creation of a new field called "network medicine," and perhaps a whole new way of thinking about executing weight loss and prevention programs - even for overweight or at risk children. You can read the Washington Post article here and the study here.

In good health,

Phil Christian
LifeStyle Media Group

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