Do your friends make you fat? The answer is yes according to the latest research by Harvard and UC, San Diego. According to a research by Harvard and University of California, obesity is contagious through social networks. In a layman term, your obese best friends can make you fat in several years.

Many people have always take for granted that obesity is caused by individual decisions such as lack of exercises and unhealthy eating habits, but this research found out that your social friends could also impact your waist size. As published in July 26 Edition of New England Journal of Medicine, study led by Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School and James Fowler of UC San Diego established the fact that obesity spread through social networks of an individual.

This means when people gain weight then there's an increased chance that their friends, spouses or siblings will also gain weight. The like hood of this weight gain depends on how close two people in term of social relationship. The closer two people are in social relationship then the more that each other will affect each other's weight. Strangely, the research found that friends had more effect compared to siblings.

To summarize the study, the researchers found that friends had 57% increased chance of becoming obese. The fact that two best friends were 1000 miles apart did not change the contagious effect of obesity. The research result was still valid for two friends who lived far away from each other. According to the researchers, the reason of this phenomenon is because people see their friends gain weight and become bigger thus conclude that it's okay to be bigger since their surrounding network are also grow bigger.

What's the moral story of this research? I decide to feature this on my blog post not to point out that you should avoid your obese friends. But I want to point out that thinness is also contagious. By maintaining your healthy lifestyle and exercises habit, you will influence your friends in losing more weight. That way I am sure we have contributed something to fight the obesity epidemic although perhaps, our roles are small.

The study can be viewed here (The title is The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network Over 32 Years)
A review of this study on UCSD News Center and Harvard Medical School.


  1. Ellen said...

    The way the news at Reuters told this story made me think that it's a contagious epidemic, while in fact you can also make your friend more slender by becoming more slender yourself.

  2. Wayne said...

    An interesting blog. It makes me think of the way we seem to fit into stereotypes or labels in our lives and how our friends are much the same in many ways to ourselves.
    The question has to be if you have a weight problem should you try to gain as many slim friends as possible?

  3. Cain said...

    Makes me wonder where the genetic link comes from, as this seems to be pointing to a learned behaviour that could be possibly unlearned?

  4. Scott said...

    Yet another thought provoking article, Cherry.

    My two cents of input would add up and say that people will tend to exhibit some, if not all, of the same daily habits as their friends.

    Whether eating habits, working habits, leisure habits and even sometimes exercise habits, they all seem to carry over in some way throughout friendly networks/groups of friends.

    Who we hang with and what we like to do normally predicts our daily activities.

    It's Scott, not Forrest Gump, but, "that's all I have to say about that."

  5. Debbie said...

    With the majority of people in the world apparently falling within the over-weight/ obese category. I guess slim people will become a very rare occurance in a few decades time!

  6. Pete said...

    I keep telling my wife that her pregnancy made me fat, now I can prove it! ;)

  7. Cherry said...

    One thing for sure, we don't need to be a politician or a Congress Man to help fight the obesity, we can start with ourselves. That's the message.

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