“We were stunned to find that friends who are hundreds of miles away have just as much impact on a person’s weight status as friends who are right next door”… The study found a person’s chances of becoming obese went up 57 percent if a friend did, 40 percent if a sibling did and 37 percent if a spouse did. In the closest friendships, the risk almost tripled.
According to Nicholas Christakis, the Harvard Medical School doctor who ran the study:
“What spreads is an idea. As people around you gain weight, your attitudes about what constitutes an acceptable body size changes, and you might follow suit and emulate that body size. It may cross some kind of threshold, and you can see an epidemic take off. Once it starts, it’s hard to stop it. It can spread like wildfire.”
One psychologist theorized that the reverse may also be true:
If one person loses weight, others around him or her will want to lose weight, too. We have noticed this effect in our own Jenny Craig saga. When people you know see you losing weight, they definitely want to know how you’re doing it.
Kate Harding, of course, is on it.
It’s well worth mentioning that that study demonstrated, among other things, that there’s no clear link between longevity and BMI, that among non-smokers, obesity was correlated with greater longevity, and that the largest single determinant of longevity was… drumroll… genes.
So basically, they took a study that showed obesity’s no big deal and turned it into a study that shows obesity is CONTAGIOUS!!!
That’s the most frightening bit of all, actually. The current message is “FAT! SCARY! RUN AWAY! OBESITY EPIDEMIC!” And any science that comes out relating to obesity is going to be given an attention-getting headline and be bent to serve that message.
You don’t want to lose a friend who becomes obese, Dr. Christakis said. Friends are good for your overall health, he explains. So why not make friends with a thin person, he suggests, and let the thin person’s behavior influence you and your obese friend?
I can tell this issue is going to blow up over the next couple of days. If you see any interesting takes on it, please let us know in the comments.
Posted by mo pie