Scientists Say Obesity Can Be Contagious

Can your friends make you fat? Science says this may be the case.

Researchers believe that obesity can actually be contagious. Constantly interacting with friends, family, or colleagues with extra pounds can increase your chance of gaining weight too.

The Research

Scientists from the University of Southern California have recently conducted a study called “M-TEENS” analyzing factors that play into weight gain. Out of 1,111 children and their families who participated in the project, 25% of teens and 75% of adults were found to be obese. It is interesting to note that statistics were different in each state. In Colorado, only 21% of teens were obese, whereas in Louisiana the numbers were twice as high.

Researchers examined the social environment and habits of participants, as well as other factors, and discovered that children whose parents worked with obese people were more likely to gain weight themselves. Why? It seems the relationship between members of a social group and their mutual influence on each other’s eating habits is an important factor in body weight and the risk of obesity.

Another study was conducted on ‘imitative obesity’ at the University of Hawaii. Observing 5,000 teens they discovered that non-overweight teens who ate with overweight or obese friends were more likely to choose the same food as them.

As a result, non-overweight participants with overweight or obese friends were more likely to gain weight and become overweight or obese themselves.

Harvard Medical School scientists have found similar results studying how obesity can spread. Their 32-year study studying 12,000 individuals concluded that those people whose friends gained some weight were 50% likely to also gain weight too.

These results are fascinating, and they provide an interesting commentary on how your surroundings can influence your behavior and weight.

What This Means For You

Does this mean you should ditch your friends who carry more pounds than you? Absolutely not. Simply understand that as friends and family members, you influence each other. Instead of gaining weight together, why not develop healthier eating habits, a better exercise routine, more positive lifestyle choices, and lose weight together.

Lifestyle changes and weight loss are much more fun done in a group. Talk to your friends. Make a plan as a team and change your lives together. If your friends are not on board with your goals, join groups offline and online to find like-minded individuals with the same goals in mind.


  1. When you go out with your friends, choose activities that keep you active. Instead of a movie, try playing Frisbee, bowling, walking in a park or riding bikes. 
  2. Pay attention to what you eat when you are with your friends. If you make healthier choices, they will do the same. 
  3. Instead of dieting, focus on healthy lifestyle habits. 
  4. Reduce stress. Stress increases your chance of gaining weight. Slow down and learn to spend time in peace every day.



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