fat-friendIs it possible for obesity to spread like a virus from person to person? According to researchers. when one person gains weight, people close to them tend to gain weight as well.

The New England Journal of Medicine ran an article on an obesity study by researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego. The conclusion of the findings showed that if a close friend becomes obese, your likelihood of becoming obese rises to a giant 171%.

If more casual acquaintances become obese, the risk rises to 57%. People who have an obese sibling increase their own chance of obesity by 40%, and the statistic is 37% for those with an obese spouse. Then when you think that each person has a different sphere of close friends, acquaintances, and various family members, you can see how a domino effect can occur.

The study, which 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, showed no effect when a neighbor gained or lost weight. Family members had much less influence than close friends. The influence remained even if a friend was living in a different part of the world.


Certainly, a lot of our physical make-up has to do with genetics, but we are also very much a product of our environment. This study sheds new light on the social factors that are contributing to today’s alarming obesity statistics. 14,222,521 (18 years and over) Canadians are overweight or fall into the obese category. Obesity is when more than 30% of their body weight is fat. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer, yet people continue to pack on the pounds. If their close friends and relatives accept obesity as the norm, that may be why.

Just look at the number of smokers whose parents smoke. Children pick up on their parents’ habits, including poor eating and other lifestyle behavior just as easily. We believe in getting the entire family involved in exercise. Again, the domino effect takes over, and there’s a higher likelihood that children will follow in the footsteps of their health-conscious parents. The healthier the lifestyle you lead, the more chance that the habits you instill early on in your children’s development will prevail throughout their lives.

Those who pursue exercise are likely to be inspired to be more conscious of their health and nutritional habits. Our experience has shown us that anyone embarking on an exercise and nutrition program in an attempt to lose weight will attest to the fact that having support from the people in their family is a terrific morale boost. As the recent study points out, this will possibly influence friends in a positive way as well.

We have so many things in our lives that we have no control over. Exercise and proper nutrition are two things we can control. These positive lifestyle habits will spill over to everyone we come into contact with, and will ultimately improve our chances of reaching the golden age of knowledge.