Why Americans Will Keep Getting Fatter: Because Fat People Make Others Fat
Want to know why Americans will keep getting fatter? Because so many of us are already fat, and because fat people make other people fatter. That's the essence of a theory put forth by Harvard scientists who are convinced that obesity spreads through social networks, not unlike a virus does. The Los Angeles Times reports on a paper published in PLoS Computational Biology, in which Harvard scientists applied a mathematical model of social contagion data from the Framingham Heart Study. Their research showed that among study participants, obesity increased from 14 percent in the 1970s to 30 percent in 2000 and continues to increase.They conclude that the upswing in obesity rates results largely from social-network influence, and they predict that the rise in obesity rates will slow, to the point that it may take another 40 years to reach that 42 percent obesity mark. The Times reports that the researchers found that being surrounded by more obese people leads to increased social acceptability of obesity which leads to a higher rate of becoming obese. Their data shows that a non-obese American has a 2 percent chance of becoming obese in any given year, and the number rises by 0.4 percent with each obese social contact. So, if you have five obese friends, that doubles your risk of becoming obese. The study found that the rate of recovery from obesity — about 4 percent per year — has not changed.