Is Obesity Contagious?

Amongst all the hysteria of the coronavirus, we are missing the forest through the trees. This isn’t to make light of the situation and not express the importance of minimizing it’s effects on those who are susceptible to the virus, but let us shift the perspective about a much larger epidemic, in my humble opinion.

Obesity is the much larger epidemic I want to write about and I want people to read about. Did you know that we are closing in on nearly 3/4 of the United States adult population being overweight or obese? It’s estimated by several health organizations that by the year 2030, 85% of the adult population will be overweight/obese. Even more troubling is the rate of childhood obesity reaching 30% in recent years, and for the first time in modern medical history, our children now have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Which begs the question:

Is obesity contagious?

Perhaps just take a look at your family tree or your network of friends and just observe and think, could it be? Could the influence and overall norm and acceptance of the issue led to your own waistline growing? Go ahead, take a look. Now this isn’t just Brandon’s theory, although at a common sense level it makes perfect sense. It has long been said that you are the average of the 5 people you hang around with most. When you hang around a bunch of party animals, chances are you’ll become one. If the people you hang around swear like a bunch of sailors, guess who’s gonna become Cusser McCusserson? If you don’t think the same goes for waistlines, you’re fooling yourself.

It goes beyond my common sense perspective on the topic. In 2007 there was a very interesting study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “and it involved a detailed analysis of a large social network of 12,067 people who had been closely followed for 32 years, from 1971 until 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 examine what happened over the years as some 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.” – NY Times 

“In another study, found in the Journal of the American Medical Association, of 1,500 U.S. Army families, the researchers say their findings may help explain why high obesity rates in the United States tend to cluster in certain geographic areas.

“Living in a community where obesity is more of the norm than not can influence what is socially acceptable in terms of eating and exercise behaviors and body size,” explained study author Ashlesha Datar.

A phenomenon called “social contagion” may be at work, she said, though the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

The bottom line: “If more people around you are obese then that may increase your own chances of becoming obese,” said Datar, a senior economist at the University of Southern California Center for Economic and Social Research.” – WebMD 

It really does make a whole lot of sense, and when you think about all the lifestyle related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, just to name a few, it begs the question, what is the real epidemic we should be concerned about, coronavirus or obesity?

Which one do you think is more deadly?

Remember, the opposite holds true also, as you become healthy and fit, you can have a positive influence on the people in your life that you care about. Everything you do matters. Make good choices and think about others above yourself.

 

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