Fat youngsters twice as likely to have fat pals

July 17th, 2009 - 1:26 pm ICT by ANI  

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Washington, July 17 (ANI): A new study
has shown that overweight youth are twice as likely to have overweight friends.

Lead author Dr Thomas
Valente, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine
insists that the findings certainly raise health concerns because when kids
start associating only with others who have a similar weight status it can
reinforce the negative behaviours that cause obesity.

“Although this link
between obesity and social networks was expected, it was surprising how strong
the peer effect is and how early in life it starts,” he added.

In the study involving 617
students ages 11-13, the researchers found that overweight adolescents were
more likely to have overweight friends than their normal-weight peers.

They also found that
overweight girls were more likely to name more friends, but less likely to be
named as a friend than normal-weight girls.

“Researchers tend to
focus mainly on health consequences when talking about weight with
adolescents,” said Valente.

“But we also need to
be sensitive to the reality that there can be a social cost for overweight
youth as well.

“Interventions should take
these peer constructs into account, he says. For parents and educators, this
may mean being conscious of potential social consequences that children may
suffer as a result of being overweight; and acknowledge that many of the
behaviours which contribute to obesity are social in nature,” he added.

The study appears in the
Journal of Adolescent Health. (ANI)

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