Health scare of the week
Obesity may effectively be contagious. Researchers collected weight and height data for 1,519 military families who had been assigned to 38 military bases across the U.S. They then compared this data with obesity rates in the counties in which the bases were located, which ranged from 21 to 38 percent. They found that the people who had moved to communities with higher rates of obesity were more likely to become obese themselves—and that the longer they remained in those areas, the greater their risk. The researchers argue that there is a subconscious influence, or “social contagion,” that plays a role in obesity. “Living in a community where obesity is more common can make sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating [and] obesity more socially acceptable,” lead author Ashlesha Datar, from the University of Southern California, tells MedicalExpress.com. The good news? Living in areas with low obesity rates appears to have the opposite effect, reducing the likelihood that people will be overweight.