CHICAGO – A new study reports that 78 percent of the nation is considered obese, and having fat friends is a big reason.
A team of researchers at Harvard University contradicts other experts who say the nation’s obesity rate has peaked at 34 percent of the U.S. population. The latest findings show that 78% of the country is obese and in ten years 99% of the country will be obese (1% are models).
“No matter what we do to change our diets and alter our lifestyles, the fact is that we are all leading more sedentary lives. Soon the majority of the country will have a BMI over 30 and every American citizen will be 20-30 pounds (at least) over their desired weight,” said Dr. John Malley of Harvard. [BMI is equal to weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. A person 5 feet 5 inches tall is classified as overweight at 150 pounds (68 kg) and obese at 180 pounds (82 kg).]
The finding is from the same group that reported in 2007 that if someone’s friend becomes obese, that person’s chances of becoming obese increase by more than half. The new study confirms this: fat friends will make you fat!
Ashely Topston, a graduate student at Harvard and the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology, said the study is based on the idea that obesity can spread like an infectious disease and people can catch it from their friends.
For the study, she and colleagues applied a mathematical model to four decades of data from the long-running Framingham study — a study of the health and habits of nearly an entire town in Massachusetts.
“We looked at the probability of becoming obese and what that was influenced by,” Toptston told WWN. “We found there is a major risk of becoming obese if you have fat friends,” Topston said.
Topston said that based on their calculations and looking at the influence of social interactions on obesity in the Framingham study, they think the U.S. obesity rates will top out at 42 percent of the population.
Over the long-running study, the rate of weight gain caused by social interaction — a person’s contact with friends who are obese — has grown quite rapidly since 1971, Topston said.
“It looks like obesity is becoming more infectious,” said Topston. The findings are reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Computational Biology.
In the study, the team found that an American adult has a 25 percent chance of becoming obese in any given year, and each obese social contact increases the risk of becoming obese by 50 percent per year.
And while having fat friends increases the odds that you will become fat, befriending thin people does not appear to help you lose weight.
“We didn’t find having more healthy-weight friends made it more likely to help people lose weight. It fits in with this idea of thinking about it as an infectious disease. You don’t really catch healthiness,” she said.
Being overweight or obese raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, arthritis and other conditions. Obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of medical spending in the United States or an estimated $147 billion a year.
The best thing you can do to try to hold off being obese for a few more years: kick your fat friends to the curb!