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Obesity is 'contagious,' study finds

FatObesity can spread among a group of friends like a contagious disease, moving from one person to another in an epidemic of fat.

That's the finding of a novel study released Wednesday that reported that having close friends who are fat can nearly triple your risk of becoming obese.

The effect is so powerful that distance doesn't matter — the influence is the same whether friends live next door or 500 miles apart.

Instead of transmitting germs or viruses, people infected each other with their perceptions of weight. For example, a man attending a Thanksgiving meal may notice his brother has gained weight and conclude that it's ok to be heavier, Christakis said.

"It's about the spread of norms from person to person," said Christakis, a professor of medical sociology.

The phenomenon worked in the other direction as well. People who become thinner, increase the chances that their friends and relatives will lose weight too, researchers said.

Source: Latimes
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