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Is Fat Contagious?

Is fat CONTAGIOUS? Are the people you hang out with making you fat? Researchers say the answer to both these questions is "yes." But if you're fat, it doesn't mean your love life is over, because fat people are attracted to each other.

New research reveals that may be caused by a VIRUS! Can we catch it from another fat person? Can be vaccinated against it? These are questions that everyone who struggles with their weight wants answered!

Scientists have new evidence that infection with a common virus may be a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic sweeping through the United States and other countries. In laboratory experiments they showed that infection with human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36), long recognized as a cause of respiratory and eye infections in humans, transforms adult stem cells obtained from fat tissue into fat cells. Stem cells not exposed to the virus, in contrast, were unchanged. 30% of obese people are infected with the Ad-36 virus, in comparison to 11% of lean people. The findings could lead to a vaccine or antiviral medication to help fight viral obesity in the future. This could explain why not everyone who eats a lot of calories gains weight.

Researcher Magdalena Pasarica says, "We're not saying that a virus is the only cause of obesity, but this study provides stronger evidence that some obesity cases may involve viral infections [and] not all infected people will develop obesity. We would ultimately like to identify the underlying factors that predispose some obese people to develop this virus and eventually find a way to treat it."

Another new study suggests that obesity is "socially contagious," spreading from person to person in a social network. Even though we know that obesity may be genetic, the greatest effect is seen not among people sharing the same genes or the same household but among friends: If one person becomes obese, those closely connected to them have a greater chance of gaining weight themselves. If one of your friends gains a lot of weight, researchers found that your own chances of becoming obese go up 57%.

Researcher Nicholas Christakis says, "It's not that obese or non-obese people simply find other similar people to hang out with." By this he means that people's influence on each other's weight could not be put down just to similarities in lifestyle and environment, such as people eating the same foods together or engaging in the same physical activities. Also, geography doesn't play a role?the impact of friends on your weight is independent upon whether or not they even live nearby.

Researcher James Fowler agrees and says, "When we looked at the effect of distance, we found that your friend who's 500 miles away has just as much impact on your obesity as [one] next door."

Christakis says, "What appears to be happening is that a person becoming obese most likely causes a change of norms about what counts as an appropriate body size. People come to think that it is okay to be bigger since those around them are bigger, and this sensibility spreads."

Fowler agrees: "This is about people's ideas about their bodies and their health. Consciously or unconsciously, people look to others when they are deciding how much to eat, how much to exercise and how much weight is too much."

But at least being fat won?t cancel your love life. In LiveScience.com, Sara Goudarzi reports that since people are attracted to lovers who resemble them, fat people are attracted to each other, and since so many people have become fat, they have more chances than ever to find a sex partner their own size.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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