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Obesity is contagious | Daily Mail Online

  • Researchers believe social networks strongly influence people’s health habits
  • Communities should be targeted to combat the growing obesity problem 
  • Teenagers in such environments for two years gain excessive amounts of weight
  • More than one-third of adults in the US are obese, putting them at risk of strokes
  • Researchers from the University of Southern California carried out the study 

Obesity is contagious, new research suggests.

People are more likely to be overweight if they live nearby those with bulging waistlines, a US study found.

Researchers believe social networks have a strong influence on people’s health habits. 

They add communities should be targeted to combat the growing obesity problem. 

More than one-third of adults in the US are obese, which increases their risk of conditions such as stroke and heart disease.

People are more likely to be overweight if they live nearby those with bulging waistlines


Working women are less likely to have obese children – but only if they are in the office for under 24 hours a week, research suggested in October last year.

Yet, youngsters aged between three and four years old are more at-risk of obesity if their mothers work for more than 35 hours a week, a study by the WZB Berlin Social Science Center found.

Those aged between eight and 14 are less likely to carry excess weight if their mothers work 35-to-40 hours a week, the research adds.

It is unclear why obesity risk varies according to differences in children’s ages and their mother’s working hours, however, the researchers believe seeing less of their parents may be detrimental for some, while others could benefit from the financial and ‘psychological’ advantages.

The World Health Organization estimates 42 million children around the world are overweight or obese, putting them at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

How the research was carried out 

The researchers, from the University of Southern California, analyzed 1,519 families from 38 military bases around the US between November 2016 and October 2017.

Military bases were chosen as they cause people from different walks of life to live closely in a community. 

Each of the families included one parent and one child aged 12-to-13 years old. 

The BMI of the participants was compared against the average levels in their counties.

Teenagers at risk after two years 

Results reveal members of military families are more likely to have a higher BMI if they are assigned to a base with high obesity levels. 

Teenagers who live in such bases for more than two years are also more at risk of carrying too much weight. 

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. 

This comes after research published in June last year revealed a bottle of water a day boosts youngsters’ ‘good’ bacteria may combat childhood obesity.

Water containing a prebiotic supplement, known as oligofructose-enriched inulin, should make obese children a healthy weight after just one year, according to scientists from the University of Calgary.