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Science News

Study Proves Having Fat Friends Makes You Fat 693

Posted by samzenpus
from the my-shadow-weighs-forty-two-pounds dept.
Xemu writes "Having fat friends makes you fat, researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California says after after examining 12,067 individuals and 38,611 of their relatives and friends. In same-sex friendships, people were 71 per cent more likely to put on weight if a friend of theirs became obese. "It's not that obese or non-obese people simply find other similar people to hang out with. Rather, there is a direct, causal relationship," says Harvard professor Nicholas Christakis."
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Study Proves Having Fat Friends Makes You Fat

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @07:22PM (#19990297)
    There are a bunch of fatties where I work. They are always bringing boxes of donuts, organizing birthday cakes for people (oh christ we have more birthday cakes in 3 months than we have employees), always trying to get you to go out to lunch with them. You know why they do it? To try to justify their need to eat like shit. They figure if everyone else is doing it, then it's ok. Same with your fatty friends. They always have loads of snack food around, eat junk food, etc. Trying to get you to eat at McDonalds, etc.

    If you are healthy and fit and hang around fatties, don't fall for their fatty ways. Beware, alert, and you will not become one of them.
  • by joejor (578266) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @07:29PM (#19990357)
    as if fit folks would hang out with fat folks in the first place
  • by imstanny (722685) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @07:31PM (#19990365)
    I really dislike these types of 'studies' because they can be grossly misleading. The same data sets can allow you to draw to correlate a number of conclusions, neither one of which could be correct.

    Maybe people that are prone to obesity are also prone to be friends with people that are prone to obesity.

    Or, be default, maybe people that remain skinny when their friends get fat break the relationship because they don't like to be friends with fat people, and therefore the only friends the fat person has left are the ones that ended up putting on weight.

    The point is, Correlation does not equal Causation.
  • by 1729 (581437) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <9271todhsals>> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @08:03PM (#19990693)

    like women who spend time together tend to align their menstrual cycles... or do you think that's another 'correlation'?


    Actually, that's a statistical fallacy, as Ann Watkins [csun.edu] has demonstrated. Two women can have their menstrual cycles out of sync by at most half a month, and once you factor in the length of menstruation and observational error (this "phenomenon" is usually observed very informally), it turns out that the statistics do not support the cycle alignment hypothesis. (These are the details I recall from a talk of Watkins's that I attended several years ago; unfortunately, I can't find the text of that talk online.)
  • by _Mustang (96904) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @08:03PM (#19990701)
    Frankly the very first thing I thought after reading your comment was - you've never been overweight or are just not bright. Ok maybe that isn't fair and I'm just in a bad way from hearing a blanket statements such as

    No genes.. No viruses.. Not what your friend does.. Not what your family does..
    It's what you choose to do. Period.
    If your metabolism slows down, eat less, exercise more - as long as your body isn't so badly out of shape that taking 3 steps will kill you.
    But that's probably the result of 20 years being overweight (~235lbs) without attributable cause. I eat properly with only rare cheats (one snack once a month max) and I exercise regularly. At one point my metabolism was so high that I radiated enough heat that you could feel it if you stood close. That was the result of 6-day/wk training with large weights and heavy cardio. I do have my ebbs and peaks on the fitness front but guess what, even at my previous peak when I was able to run 7KM/h for 45 min straight and bench press 350lbs, I was still not able to get weight below 207lbs or body-fat reading below 20% . I should have been able to since I'm nominally supposed to weigh in the range of 180 according to the experts..

    So clearly something genetic must be in play.
    I would say it seems the nature/nurture debate is back on - though it is possible to control or at least minimize the nurture in this specific case and while I do not specifically support or deny the research; at least it's being done!
  • by Kelbear (870538) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @08:57PM (#19991237)
    Parent is informative.

    People like to down on fatties all day for being lazy. How many of them actually work for the body they have?

    -I'm 5'10. I weigh 220lbs by eating till I don't want to eat, and with no exercise.
    -I weigh 180lbs by lifting 3 days a week and cardio 4 days a week. I bench 315, squat around 600. I eat to sufficiency rather than to satisfaction. There is still 18% body fat there. No six pack.

    Many of the people who are so quick to jump to conclusions have no idea what the other person is up to. I've been a fatty, and I've been an athlete, and I'm the only one who can tell you which is the real me.

    How easy is it to resist something when it's easy? How hard is it to resist when it's hard? Quitting smoking is very different between the lifetime smoker and the guy who's never smoked. You don't know what it's like in their head, so don't pretend to.

    But with that said, each person /does/ know what it's like in their own head, and they're the ones who have to be the harshest on themselves. They'll be the one who will have to deal with the results. So if fitness is easy for someone else, bully for them. If it's hard for you, you have to suck it up and deal with it because it won't just go away.
  • Re:BUT I'M STARVING! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:29PM (#19991587) Homepage
    Yes 33,000. The average person is only supposed to eat about 2000 calories. Based on your stature, you probably are eating less than 2000 calories. Personally, I'm not perfect, and nobody else is either. I eat about 2500 calories a day as far as I can figure, but I'm pretty active, so maybe that offsets it. In case anybody is wondering, I'm 5'8" and 160 lbs. Just checked my BMI [nhlbisupport.com] and I'm at 24.3. That's on the border of overweight. And I consider myself quite skinny. I think the BMI is pretty seriously flawed, and doesn't account for anybody with any significant amount of muscle. I often wonder how much of these studies are offset by the fact that the BMI is such a bad metric for gaging overweightness.
  • by twitter (104583) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:59PM (#19991831) Homepage Journal

    If all your friends eat greasy burgers and pizza and have beer and then plop down to watch the game, you are likely to do the same to fit in.

    Like people have not been doing that for the last sixty years. You can't tell me that all of the sudden 75% of the country is doing this and that is responsible for the fat epidemic that's happened since the 1980's. Something's changed and it's not football.

    The most likely culprit are changes to food allowed by the Nixon administration, which include allowing high fructose corn syrup. Compare these two graphs side by side:

  • Re:Cruel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:48PM (#19992259) Journal

    Oddly enough, obesity seems to be mostly a disease of first world societies. Could it be that human evolved to live in an environment of scarcity and that in 2-3 generations we haven't yet managed to rewire ourselves to adjust to living in an environment of plenty.

    No, the U.S. has been mostly a nation of plenty for a couple hundred years or more. Depending on how you count, that's easily 6-8 generations. Mass obesity has only come in the last generation or so. Most people are obese not because of genetics, laziness, or overconsumption. Most people are obese because for years we've been taught to eat incorrectly and because the quality of our food has taken a substantial decline.

    If the obesity problem were simply a result of us not being used to availability of food, we would have seen nearly constant levels of obesity for the past two or three generations. Instead, we're seeing an order of magnitude increase in morbid obesity (>40% BMI) since the mid 1980s. We weren't all struggling to find food in the mid 1980s. If this study were done in the 1950s comparing against the 1930s (Great Depression), I might believe that explanation, but it just doesn't make sense in this day and age.

    In reality, the mass obesity problem coincides perfectly with the rise of processed foods. This got worse after the U.S. government started giving huge corn subsidies and putting high import duties on sugar to encourage use of high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is processed by the body very quickly, but does not trigger the same insulin response as glucose. Thus, your body A. does not feel satiated, so you consume more, B. does not gain the metabolic surge that normally occurs in response to elevated insulin levels, and so does not use all that energy, C. stores the resulting excess energy as fat. Replacing that same amount of fructose with glucose will cause a significant weight loss.

    Similarly, when your body consumes a large amount of food at once, it can't use it all immediately, so much of that energy gets stored. That's why consuming proteins are better for you than consuming sugars and starches from a weight perspective. Note: you should not eat all protein. You do need other stuff to prevent lots of colon problems later in life, and many sources of protein bring fat along for the ride, which is even worse than (at least complex) carbohydrates.

    However, without changing what foods you eat at all, you can significantly reduce your weight by spreading it more evenly throughout the day. Fix yourself a normal lunch, but instead of eating the whole thing, put aside a third of it and consume it in mid-afternoon.

    Case in point, I've tried exercise and diet with no success as all. However, I recently lost a substantial amount of weight while consuming substantially more calories than before. I replaced my usual HFCS-sweetened beverage at lunch with an entire extra meal later in the day, drinking only water and fruit juices. I'm guessing I now take in half again more calories, but I weigh ten or twelve pounds less (depending on the mood my digital scale is in) and have kept the weight off for a couple of months now.

    Your mileage may vary, but it has been my experience that total calorie consumption is only a very small part of the obesity picture, and not the most important part by any means.

    Oh, yeah, and don't get me started on diet sodas. They're even worse than HFCS-sweetened sodas at causing people to gain weight. (Source: University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio [foxnews.com].) If you're overweight, switching from "diet" sodas to regular sodas might actually cause you to lose weight.... Talk about false advertising....

  • by slamb (119285) * on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:46AM (#19993049) Homepage

    Ok, you are a typical idiot, but I will even elaborate with a story. I had a girlfriend in high school. We dated for a little over three years. Being young and nieve, I always wanted to be with her. Before I go further, she was heavy... ~5' 6", 200lbs. I was 5' 7", 130lbs. After school, she would WALK from her house to pick me up, we would WALK back to her house, she would WALK me home, then WALK home herself. Now this is the part where you have to pay attention. I am not exaggerating in the slightest... in my parents car, one way to her house was 6.2 miles. We walked on the very sidewalks along said roads. That is almost 25 miles of walking... in ONE DAY. And we did this practically EVERY DAY (I liked the sex, she was needy). And here is the best part... she never ate lunch at school. She usually had dinner at my house.

    Exercise and diet always cut it, unless your girlfriend was a perpetual motion machine. According to this chart [nutristrategy.com], walking at 3.0 mph for a 190-pound person burns 300 calories per hour. Four 6.2 mile trips at 3.0 mph is 8.3 hours of walking, or 2,500 calories. She might have been an unusually efficient walker, but there are limits, and she did other things in the day. If what you said was true (and I doubt it...eight hours of walking? really?), she ate more than 2,000 calories a day. You may not have seen her do it, but she somehow managed to cram in a lot of eating in the time between school, sex, eight hours of walking, homework, and sleeping.

    An AC said further:

    It's quite plausible that there are people whose body needs 20 hours a day of constant sprinting and one stick of celery a week to maintain a healthy weight.

    No. In fact, it's not merely implausible, but actually impossible. Your belief system is thermodynamically unsound.

  • Re:Hard to believe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SashaMan (263632) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:46AM (#19993051)
    Why is this parent modded down? I find it very difficult to believe someone was walking 25 miles a day, every day, for an extended period if they had any other obligations. Plus, if this 200 lb woman was really walking 25 miles a day, she would have been burning almost 3000 calories per day just by the walking assuming a brisk 15-minute mile pace (see http://walking.about.com/cs/howtoloseweight/a/howc alburn.htm [about.com]). There's no way she could be walking this much and not losing wait without eating a very large amount of food.
  • by The One and Only (691315) * <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @03:06AM (#19993735) Homepage
    Depends on how fat they are. Skinny chicks aren't attractive to me. Better for the wrong parts to be a little too big than for the right parts to be too small.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @01:42PM (#20000489)

    Time to cut out the crap food, the too-big portions, the second helpings, and start starving yourself, because nothing else will work.

    this is absolutely, unequivocally wrong in the majority of cases. i'm on a moderate diet where i feel great (my worst day on the diet is better than my best day on the average american carbohydrate fest), i have excess energy to play basketball twice a week, do cardio twice a week (or more) and lift weights three times a week (a nice side effect of my diet is i don't over produce lactic acid so when i picked up weights for the first time in 20 years, i didn't get sore like i did 20 years earlier in the high carbo diet - it is funny to see my muscular friends get all sore after a workout and me, the skinny guy, doesn't get sore). I'm losing about a lb of fat per week (8 lbs in 8 weeks, some water loss, some muscle gain to offset some fat loss). i'm just shy of 5'11", i weighed in at 170.5 lbs this morning - not bad for 40+ year old. i can tell i have about more lbs of fat to go until i have gotten 100% rid of the fat around my waist and behind. yes, that's an 8 pack at 40 plus. ny time frame is jan 1, 2008 - so i have plenty of time to lose the excess fat and offset some of the fat weight loss with muscle mass gains.

    i've never felt better and...

    i. don't. starve. i'm rarely hungry.

    the diet is the ultimate moderate diet, too. it is called the zone diet. there is a plethora of information on the web about it. the former heaviest man in the world chose the zone diet over surgery and he lost 400 lbs in the first year.

    http://www.drsears.com/zonemondaysfeatureopen.page ?zoneMondayID=284 [drsears.com]
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,257620,00.html [foxnews.com]

    PBS scientific american did a study on diets and the Zone fared very well...

    http://www.pbs.org/saf/1401/features/robin.htm [pbs.org]

    A 47 year old woman went from 247 to 2002 lbs in 6 months and, when asked what she liked best about the diet, Robin responded, "What I really like is how good you feel when you are "in the Zone". You are rarely hungry, and you just feel really, really good - it has a tremendous impact on your mood - unlike other diets I've been on"

    notice, she didn't mention the 45 lbs gone, rather, she mentioned how she felt great on the diet and how this diet didn't leave her feeling hungry. this mirrors my personal experience. my worst day on the zone is better than my best day on the average american diet (on a physical, well being level, all else being equal).

    >blockquote>
    And no, you don't have a glandular problem - you got that way one bite at a time, just like everyone else.


    i don't believe all people are created equal in how their bodies process food. for example, i'd bet my wife has eaten more food than i have and i know she exercises less, yet she weighs 130 and change and i weigh 170 and small change. if our bodies handled food equally, she should weigh more than i do.

    we all know people who can eat pop tarts all day and not gain a pound and we know others who seemingly just look at food and add a pound.

    everyone's body is genetically UNIQUE. the variation might be small or might be huge, it just depends. surely there are nurture issues to go along with the nature issues - it isn't a simple issue. my experience is that the zone diet tends to equalize the playing field - at least as far as excess fat loss, creating energy and a general feeling of well being.

    the press erroneously refers to the zone as a "high protein" or "low carb" diet. both these descriptions are wrong. it is a protein moderate, carb moderate, monounsaturated fat moderate diet.

    lean meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts are the zone staples (duh, it just make

  • Re:Cruel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ciggieposeur (715798) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @03:12PM (#20001735)
    Order a salad or an appetizer for your meal. At the pot-luck, get smaller portions of each thing you really want, and fruit or something for dessert. If you look you can find it.

    In my case -- and I would expect for many others -- I cannot be surrounded by bad food and not have a little here, a little there, and before I know it consume 600+ calories. I can't have Oreos in the house or they'll be gone within a day. Yes, I could probably master some special self-discipline techniques, but it is far easier for me to simply keep the crap out of the house and avoid fooding with friends and family.

    Unfortunately, friends and family only plan their activities around food. The thin ones either don't understand why one meal can hose a whole week or why I "can't just eat a little" when everyone else is eating a lot; the fat ones have already failed in their diets and essentially would like me to fail too because it would make them feel better.

    If they're real friends, your physical appearance won't matter to them and they'll treat you the same.

    This is a tangent but it matters. The thing is, my friends ARE "real friends" but they DO treat me a little differently, they don't really see it and couldn't do much about it anyway even if they did. It's partly an inversion of the "pretty people get more" thing (see http://www.careerbuilder.com/JobSeeker/careerbytes /CBArticle.aspx?articleID=312 [careerbuilder.com] ) and partly the fact that I'm the odd one out with special issues regarding food and exercise. I'm not trying to sound whiny, it's simply the truth.

    Thanks for the kudos, though.

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. -- Poul Anderson

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