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Harvard study finds obesity contagious

People in contact with Obese people rea t a higher risk of becoming obese The Harvard study has revealed that the chances of becoming obese increase with more contact a person has with obese people.

A recent Harvard study has predicted that obesity figures in America are likely to reach 42 percent before stabilising.

The study results are in contrast to the earlier forecasts made by Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in which it was predicted that obesity among adults has stabilised at 32 percent, a figure where it was standing for the last five years.

Alison L. Hill, the study researcher at Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics said that the present study predicts that obesity may take another forty years to stabilize.

Hill, a graduate student at the university, told MyHealthNewsDaily, “Our model suggests that, based on rates of [ people ] becoming obese that we have measured, it seems that even though its slowed down, it will continue to increase.”

Chances of obesity increase on contact with obese people
The study also showed that people who are not obese are likely to become obese after they come in contact with obese people. This way obesity has a cascading effect on non-obese people, and the chances of them becoming obese increase the more they stay in contact with obese people.

Alison and her colleagues based the findings of the study on the model of spread of obesity through social networks, similar to that of the spread of contagious diseases like flu.

“Data suggests the dynamics are the same for obesity even if the mechanisms are different,” Hill said.

The research found that there are primarily three factors affecting the obesity rate--personal contact via social networks, individual factors like exercise and diet, and the rate at which obese people lose weight.

A revealing finding of the study was that obesity can, in fact, spread like a contagious disease. The chances of becoming obese increase with more contact you have with obese people, researchers said.

study based on data of 75,000 people
The study based its findings on the analysis of the data of 75,000 people in the Framingham Heart Study.

The researchers found that an average person has two percent chances of becoming obese in any given year due to individual factors like lack of exercise and unhealthy diet. These chances increase by 0.5 percent with each obese family member, friend, or a co-worker around.

Hill used the same mathematical model used for analyzing the spread of positive and negative emotions among people. She now plans to use the model to see how social contact affects other behaviors.