Have Heavy Friends? It May Impact Your Waistline

By Amir Khan on July 13, 2012 10:23 AM EDT

Obesity
Who you surround yourself with could have a large implication on your waist size (Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble)

Who you surround yourself with could have a large impact on your waist size, according to a new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE. People who surround themselves with friends heavier than they are will be more likely to gain weight themselves, researchers said.

The research, conducted on high school students, found that those who had heavier friends were more likely to gain weight. Researchers also found that the opposite held true - those with skinnier friends lost weight.

"These results can help us develop better interventions to prevent obesity," David Shoham, an assistant professor in the department of preventive medicine and epidemiology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said, according to HealthDay. "We should not be treating adolescents in isolation."

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Researchers looked at data from more than 1,600 students. Teens were asked about their weight, friends, sports and how time they spent in front of the computer or TV. Researchers found that there was a significant link between obesity and friends, indicating that there could be a correlation.

For example, a student with thin friends had a 40 percent chance of losing weight and a 27 percent chance of gaining weight, compared to someone with heavier friends, who had a 15 percent chance of losing weight and a 56 percent chance of gaining weight.

Researchers said the findings could help curb the obesity epidemic and cut back on the medical costs people endure of their lifetime.

An obese person's annual medical cost is $2,700 higher, in 2005 dollars, than a non-obese person, according to the study. In 2010 dollars, the last year data is available, that is equivalent to almost $3,000.

More than 35 percent of adults in the U.S. older than 20 are obese. In 1985, no state had an obesity rate higher than 14 percent. By 2010, no state had an obesity rate lower than 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Costs associated with obesity accounts for $190 billion annually - 121 percent higher than previous estimates. More than 20.6 percent of all national health expenditures is spent on managing obesity and the related plethora of health problems, according to a recent study.

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