Social Networks Influence Obesity

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A holistic concept of wellness includes physical, mental, social and spiritual components. New research adds a little twist to the formula finding that social interactions may influence a person’s weight in either a positive or negative manner.

In the new study, Loyola University researchers followed high school students and discovered a person’s circle of friends may influence his or her weight.

Students were more likely to gain weight if they had friends who were heavier than they were. Conversely, students were more likely to get trimmer — or gain weight at a slower pace — if their friends were leaner than they were.

A student’s social network also influences how active he or she is in sports. (By social networks, researchers mean face-to-face friends, not Facebook friends.)

This finding confirms and expands upon earlier research that has found weight loss can also be contagious.

“These results can help us develop better interventions to prevent obesity,” says David Shoham, PhD. “We should not be treating adolescents in isolation.”

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