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Study shows obesity may be contagious

September 3, 2009 4:41:20 PM PDT
Parents may want to keep a better eye on who their child is eating with at school.According to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children ate more at lunch when paired with a friend than with a peer they did not know.

Researchers looked at the eating habits of 130 kids between the ages of 9 and 15. The students were allowed to snack as much as they wanted while spending time with a friend or another child they did not know.

The study found that children ate the most when they were with a friend versus a stranger, especially if the friend was overweight. Obese children ate an average of 300 more calories when coupled with an obese friend compared to when they were teamed up with leaner friends.

The findings led researcher and clinical psychologist Sarah-Jeanne Salvy to come up with the social theory that obesity can be contagious.

Researchers say socializing with overweight people can change what we perceive as the norm. They also say there's the notion that we like to hang out with people that are like ourselves.

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