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Overweight teens may have overweight friends

July 17, 2009 |  2:26 pm

For teens, being overweight may beget having overweight friends, according to a new study.

Juprs1nc Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California conducted surveys among 617 students age11 to 13 in four schools around Los Angeles. About two-thirds of the participants were girls, and most were in the seventh grade. After height and weight measurements were taken, the students' body mass index scores were calculated.

Being overweight was linked to various factors, including being more likely to have overweight friends than other students who were of normal weight. Overweight girls were more apt to name more friends their normal-weight peers, but were also slightly less likely to be named as a friend.

In the study, the authors wrote, "These results have two important implications: the social contagion of obesity may start at a young age, and social affiliations by obesity status may have far-ranging consequences for adolescent development." The study is published in the August issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The findings were similar to a 2007 New England Journal of Medicinestudy that found there might be a contagion factor in being overweight. Researchers discovered that among study participants, when one started adding pounds, those around them, including family and friends, tended to gain weight as well. Having a friend who became obese increased a person's chances of also being obese by 57%.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Angelo Cavalli / ABC