Thursday, July 26, 2007

Obesity Seems to Spread Through Social Networks

Obesity Seems to Spread Through Social Networks

Obesity appears to spread from person to person through social ties, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study.

The research evaluated a network of about 12,000 people over 32 years. All were members of the Framingham Heart Study. Researchers found, for example, that a person's chances of becoming obese increased by 57% in a given period if a friend became obese, 40% if a sibling did, and 37% if a spouse did. The effects were seen even if the obese acquaintance lived far away.

The authors speculate that someone who sees a friend gain weight may regard putting on weight as more acceptable. An editorialist says the work suggests that "friends have an even more important effect on a person's risk of obesity than genes do"


NEJM article (Free)
NEJM editorial (Free)
New York Times story (Free)

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