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Health
Study cites potential for obesity epidemic


Obesity can spread among family and friends, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine today.

Researchers tracked more than 12,000 people over 32 years. They found that a person's chances of gaining weight increase when a spouse, brother or friend became obese. Interestingly, weight gain in a sibling of the opposite sex was not a major factor.

"It's almost a cliche to speak of the obesity epidemic as being an epidemic. But we wanted to see if it really did spread from person to person like a fashion or a germ," lead researcher Nicholas A. Christakis of the Harvard Medical School told The Washington Post. "And the answer is, 'Yes, it does.' We are finding evidence for a kind of social contagion."

The study did not differentiate weight gain or obesity among different racial or ethnic groups.

Get the Story:
Obesity Spreads In Social Circles As Trends Do, Study Indicates (The Washington Post 7/26)
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Find Yourself Packing It On? Blame Friends (The New York Times 7/26)
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New England Journal of Medicine, Study:
The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years (July 26, 2007)