Obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus

  1. Elite Member
    yeahright's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    6,368
    Rep Power
    10347
    Level
    52
    Lv. Percent
    98.42%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting ProPosting Authority

    Post Obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus


    New York Times
    July 26, 2007
    Find Yourself Packing It on? Blame Friends
    By GINA KOLATA
    Obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus, researchers are reporting today. When one person gains weight, close friends tend to gain weight, too.

    Their study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, involved a detailed analysis of a large social network of 12,067 people who had been closely followed for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003.


    The investigators knew who was friends with whom as well as who was a spouse or sibling or neighbor, and they knew how much each person weighed at various times over three decades. That let them reconstruct what happened over the years as individuals became obese. Did their friends also become obese? Did family members? Or neighbors?

    The answer, the researchers report, was that people were most likely to become obese when a friend became obese. That increased a person’s chances of becoming obese by 57 percent. There was no effect when a neighbor gained or lost weight, however, and family members had less influence than friends.

    It did not even matter if the friend was hundreds of miles away, the influence remained. And the greatest influence of all was between close mutual friends. There, if one became obese, the other had a 171 percent increased chance of becoming obese, too.

    The same effect seemed to occur for weight loss, the investigators say. But since most people were gaining, not losing, over the 32 years, the result was, on average, that people grew fatter.

    Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School and a principal investigator in the new study, said one explanation was that friends affected each others’ perception of fatness. When a close friend becomes obese, obesity may not look so bad.

    “You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you,” Dr. Christakis said.
    The investigators say their findings can help explain why Americans have become fatter in recent years — each person who became obese was likely to drag along some friends.

    Their analysis was unique, Dr. Christakis said, because it moved beyond a simple analysis of one person and his or her social contacts and instead examined an entire social network at once, looking at how a person’s friend’s friends, or a spouse’s sibling’s friends, could have an influence on a person’s weight.

    The effects, he said, “highlight the importance of a spreading process, a kind of social contagion, that spreads through the network.”

    Of course, the investigators say, social networks are not the only factors that affect body weight. There is a strong genetic component at work, too.

    Science has shown that individuals have genetically determined ranges of weights, spanning perhaps 30 or so pounds for each person. But that leaves a large role for the environment in determining whether a person’s weight is near the top of his or her range or near the bottom. As people have gotten fatter, it appears that many are edging toward the top of their ranges. The question has been why.

    If the new research is correct, it may say that something in the environment seeded what some call an obesity epidemic, making a few people gain weight. Then social networks let the obesity spread rapidly.
    It may also mean that the way to avoid becoming fat is to avoid having fat friends.

    That is not the message they mean to convey, say the study investigators, Dr. Christakis and his colleague, James H. Fowler, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.

    You do not want to lose a friend who becomes obese, Dr. Christakis said. Friends are good for your overall health, he explained. So why not make friends with a thin person, he suggested, and let the thin person’s behavior influence you and your obese friend?

    That answer does not satisfy obesity researchers like Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

    “I think there’s a great risk here in blaming obese people even more for things that are caused by a terrible environment,” Dr. Brownell said.

    On average, the investigators said, their rough calculations show that a person who became obese gained 17 pounds and the newly obese person’s friend gained five. But some gained less or did not gain weight at all, while others gained much more. Those extra pounds were added onto the natural increases in weight that occur when people get older.

    What usually happened was that peoples’ weights got high enough to push them over the boundary, a body mass index of 30, that divides overweight and obese. (For example, a 6-foot-tall man who went from 220 pounds to 225 would go from being overweight to obese.)

    While other researchers were surprised by the findings, the big surprise for Dr. Christakis was that he could do the study at all. He got the idea for it from all the talk of an obesity epidemic.

    “One day I said: ‘Maybe it really is an epidemic. Maybe it spreads from person to person,’ ” Dr. Christakis recalled.
    It was only by chance that he discovered a way to find out. He learned that the data he needed were in a large federal study of heart disease, the Framingham Heart Study, that had followed the population of Framingham, Mass., for decades, keeping track of nearly every one of its participants.

    The study’s records included each participant’s address and the names of family members. To ensure that researchers would not lose track of their subjects, each subject was asked to name a close friend who would know where the person was at the time of the next exam, in roughly four years.

    Since much of the town and most of the subjects’ relatives were participating, the data contained all that Dr. Christakis and his colleagues needed to reconstruct the social network and track it through 32 years.
    Their research has taken obesity specialists and social scientists aback. But many say the finding is pathbreaking and can shed light on how and why people have gotten so fat so fast.

    “It is an extraordinarily subtle and sophisticated way of getting a handle on aspects of the environment that are not normally considered,” said Dr. Rudolph L. Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University.

    Richard M. Suzman, who directs the office of behavioral and social research programs at the National Institute on Aging, called the research “one of the most exciting studies to come out of medical sociology in decades.” The National Institute on Aging financed the study.

    But Dr. Stephen O’Rahilly, an obesity researcher at the University of Cambridge, said the very uniqueness of the Framingham data would make it hard to try to replicate the new findings. No other study that he knows of has the same sort of long-term and detailed data on social interactions.

    “I don’t want to look like an old curmudgeon,” Dr. O’Rahilly said, “but when you come upon things that inherently look a bit implausible, you raise the bar for standards of proof. Good science is all about replication, but it is hard to see how science will ever replicate this.”

    “Boy,” he said, “is the Framingham Study unique.”

  2. New Member
    AtomSmasher's Avatar
    Stats
    5'8"  230 lbs.
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Age
    31
    Posts
    360
    Rep Power
    271
    Level
    15
    Lv. Percent
    66.94%

    mmmmmmmmmm obesity
  3. New Member
    fitnecise's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    180
    Rep Power
    193
    Level
    11
    Lv. Percent
    40.86%

    Obesity is caused by bacterial infection, germ theory needs to be revised!



    EDIT: well actually that is possible in theory, google firmicutes.
    •   
       

  4. Professional Member
    PumpingIron's Avatar
    Stats
    5'11"  190 lbs.
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    4,688
    Rep Power
    2464
    Level
    46
    Lv. Percent
    76.12%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting Pro

    I read this yesterday on usatoday or cnn and I think the basic premise is flawed. I think you befriend those similar to you. So either they have similar likes and habits (eating/not eating, working out/not working out) or they are already similar to you in appearance.
  5. Board Supporter
    joecski's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Age
    46
    Posts
    776
    Rep Power
    510
    Level
    22
    Lv. Percent
    8.63%

    Quote Originally Posted by PumpingIron View Post
    I read this yesterday on usatoday or cnn and I think the basic premise is flawed. I think you befriend those similar to you. So either they have similar likes and habits (eating/not eating, working out/not working out) or they are already similar to you in appearance.
    I agree to a point, and it is definitely true that you make friends with people who have the same interests as yourself. With that being said, here are two things I've noticed:

    When a woman is pregnant, in many instances the husband becomes fatter also. I think it has to do with the increased eating of the mother to be and the father to be not wanting to feel left out - a bonding type of thing.

    Another example, many times I've been on company sponsored dinners where normally responsible eaters go way overboard, having appetizers and deserts, because others/the boss is doing it. It is so hard to sit there and eat nothing while everyone else is enjoying socializing and desert. Now, this isn't a big deal once in a while, but have lunch with clients and/or dinner with associates a few times a week and watch it add up. I have seen this happen to many guys.

    Just MHO, but I can see how social events relate to obesity.
  6. Professional Member
    PumpingIron's Avatar
    Stats
    5'11"  190 lbs.
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    4,688
    Rep Power
    2464
    Level
    46
    Lv. Percent
    76.12%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting Pro

    joe, i definitely agree, and those probably be sympathy eating and conformity, respectively.

    but they are isolated incidences...in the overall scheme of things, with friends, i don't see obesity spreading like a virus.
  7. Elite Member
    thewilman's Avatar
    Stats
    5'9"  165 lbs.
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Age
    44
    Posts
    6,167
    Rep Power
    3211
    Level
    50
    Lv. Percent
    95.69%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting ProPosting Authority

    I agree when it comes to children of obese parents. Kids emulate their parents. But adults need to be responsible for their own actions.

    It's a lot easier to say I'm fat because my parents were fat, my friend's are fat, and I'm addicted to sugar.

    No...in 99% of the cases, you are fat because you eat too much and don't do anything. I know...I was HUGE!

    As long as people in our society keep looking for someone or something to blame for their circumstances, they will never make the necessary changes in themselves and their lifestyle to get results.

    I will now quietly step off the soap box...
  8. Board Supporter
    joecski's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Age
    46
    Posts
    776
    Rep Power
    510
    Level
    22
    Lv. Percent
    8.63%

    This is the part of the study that makes sense to me: I
    "If the new research is correct, it may say that something in the environment seeded what some call an obesity epidemic, making a few people gain weight. Then social networks let the obesity spread rapidly.
    It may also mean that the way to avoid becoming fat is to avoid having fat friends.

    This is something I unfortunately agree with to a large degree. The easiest way to stay on program is to get your closest friends on the program. My wife recently began doing cardio about two months ago, now she is lifting and folllowing my eating program. Life is much easier for me, I am never tempted to snag a few potato chips or some ice cream from her, and she is enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle -and picking out new swimwear!
  9. Advanced Member
    SteelEntity's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    595
    Rep Power
    390
    Level
    19
    Lv. Percent
    42.8%

    It's opposite with me. When I am around fat people it reminds me of how ugly being fat is and gives me even more motivation to stay lean. My g/f and I both think this way so it works out well. I do have over weight friends though and I do not disrespect them or avoid them for being fat, it's their life and they can do what they want.

    The moment someone I know that is over weight starts playing the "victim" role, complaining that life is hard and wants sympathy, well that's game for me. You can get the hell outta my life when you start pulling that ****. We all want to eat brownies and ice cream but we don't cause we give 2 ****s about what we look like. If you're fat and you know what you're doing and how you look, that's just fine. But don't start acting like you didn't ask for it. That was slightly off topic but w/e.

    To answer the orginal question, yes.. I believe more often then not people who are associated with fat people on a regular basis tend to accept that being a little chubby is alright resulting in them getting fat them selves. This is especially true with spouses imo.
  10. New Member
    ultra2extreme's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    94
    Rep Power
    139
    Level
    8
    Lv. Percent
    87.85%

    Lol, nice study. I can see how it works though, my training partner has 2 good friends,

    me - ultra focused wouldnt touch a bag of crisps if there was a gun to my head.

    Ben (ironically a nutritionalist) - eats pizza and crisp sandwiches all day because he never gains weight.

    Now when my training partner (chris) is around me he is a paragon of healthy eating, never a bad food item would pass his lips. Yet whenever i see him around ben, Bang! he's got a face full of pie. Now the 3 of us are just old school friends who live in each others pockets (err metaphorically, we are not lint). But i geuss as bodybuilders too we are highly reprasentative of the core of this debate/study.

    Truth is, most people are weak, most people cant resists good tasty junk food.

    Personally i see someone tucking into a big mac and fries and i sit all the smug-ger safe in my knowledge that whilst they see something they dont like looking back at them each morning, i work my butt of to be whatever i can be.
  11. Board Moderator
    Never enough
    EasyEJL's Avatar
    Stats
    5'10"  205 lbs.
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Age
    47
    Posts
    31,888
    Rep Power
    852765
    Level
    95
    Lv. Percent
    49.85%
    Achievements Activity VeteranActivity RoyaltyActivity ProActivity AuthorityPosting Pro

    Does stupidity spread this way too?
  12. Elite Member
    yeahright's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    6,368
    Rep Power
    10347
    Level
    52
    Lv. Percent
    98.42%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting ProPosting Authority

    Quote Originally Posted by EasyEJL View Post
    Does stupidity spread this way too?
    Yes it does. One person adopts a certain belief. That belief spreads to friends. Once you're surrounded by people who have that belief, you never have to question the underlying assumptions of that belief because everyone you come into contact with already assumes the same thing to be true. If you pay attention, you can watch this dynamic in the broader society.

    A Newsweek poll a couple months back showed that 1/3 of Americans believe that Iraq was behind the September 11th attacks. No facts are going to shake this belief system. People have adopted it and cling to it like a religious belief because abandoning it would force them to re-examine a whole host of other beliefs they hold.
  13. New Member
    ultra2extreme's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    94
    Rep Power
    139
    Level
    8
    Lv. Percent
    87.85%

    Quote Originally Posted by yeahright View Post
    A Newsweek poll a couple months back showed that 1/3 of Americans believe that Iraq was behind the September 11th attacks. No facts are going to shake this belief system. People have adopted it and cling to it like a religious belief because abandoning it would force them to re-examine a whole host of other beliefs they hold.
    Thats precisely how 90% of human beings make it from A to B without going mad. Insightful post, reps.
  14. Board Moderator
    Never enough
    EasyEJL's Avatar
    Stats
    5'10"  205 lbs.
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Age
    47
    Posts
    31,888
    Rep Power
    852765
    Level
    95
    Lv. Percent
    49.85%
    Achievements Activity VeteranActivity RoyaltyActivity ProActivity AuthorityPosting Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by yeahright View Post
    Yes it does. One person adopts a certain belief. That belief spreads to friends. Once you're surrounded by people who have that belief, you never have to question the underlying assumptions of that belief because everyone you come into contact with already assumes the same thing to be true. If you pay attention, you can watch this dynamic in the broader society.

    A Newsweek poll a couple months back showed that 1/3 of Americans believe that Iraq was behind the September 11th attacks. No facts are going to shake this belief system. People have adopted it and cling to it like a religious belief because abandoning it would force them to re-examine a whole host of other beliefs they hold.

    I'd think Bush's approval rating would be higher then
  15. Elite Member
    yeahright's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    6,368
    Rep Power
    10347
    Level
    52
    Lv. Percent
    98.42%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting ProPosting Authority

    Quote Originally Posted by EasyEJL View Post
    I'd think Bush's approval rating would be higher then
    That's one of the interesting things. Even though these people have this irrational belief, a substantial portion of them still think Bush did a lousy job responding to their irrational belief.
  16. Board Moderator
    Never enough
    EasyEJL's Avatar
    Stats
    5'10"  205 lbs.
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Age
    47
    Posts
    31,888
    Rep Power
    852765
    Level
    95
    Lv. Percent
    49.85%
    Achievements Activity VeteranActivity RoyaltyActivity ProActivity AuthorityPosting Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by yeahright View Post
    That's one of the interesting things. Even though these people have this irrational belief, a substantial portion of them still think Bush did a lousy job responding to their irrational belief.
    And here I am one of the 66% that knows the truth on that issue, and still think he has done the right thing.
  17. Advanced Member
    SteelEntity's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    595
    Rep Power
    390
    Level
    19
    Lv. Percent
    42.8%

    Life is much easier when you conform to others beliefs rather then fighting them. People long for acceptance among their peers and family and we all know it doesn't take much to be hated. I'm more of a fighter, maybe its the Irish in me.
  

  
 

Similar Forum Threads

  1. can i jump from one to another?
    By rojasdave in forum Supplements
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 11-23-2010, 03:51 PM
  2. Replies: 3
    Last Post: 12-02-2009, 02:20 AM
  3. how much can i really expect to keep
    By mcssassin in forum Anabolics
    Replies: 19
    Last Post: 04-07-2009, 08:53 PM
  4. Replies: 0
    Last Post: 01-25-2008, 03:54 AM
  5. Replies: 19
    Last Post: 07-15-2007, 01:07 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Log in
Log in