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Are your friends making you fat?

Researchers from Harvard Medical School looked at weight gain among 12,000 people in a study tracking relatives, friends and neighbors for more than 30 years. The results published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that people are more likely to become obese if their friends and family put on excess weight. People with an obese spouse were 37 percent more likely to become obese themselves. Those with an obese sibling faced a 40 percent increased risk of obesity. The relationship among friends was more complex. Men's weight was unrelated to the weight of their female friends. Somewhat surprisingly, female friends also did not influence each other's weight. But men with male friends who became obese had a 100 percent increase in obesity risk -- even if their friend lived far away. Researchers say this is because social obesity spreads through shared attitudes, not shared meals. When one person feels it's OK to put on a lot of weight, it becomes more acceptable for their friends and family to gain weight as well.

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