Is slimming contagious? Befriending dieters will help shed the pounds, says study


Is slimming contagious Befriending dieters will help shed the pounds, says study

Want to lose weight

Then befriending slimmers will help you shed the pounds, say scientists.

A study found that overweight participants lost the most weight when they were supported by those with similar health targets.

Ripple effect: A study found obese participants, who befriended those with similar weight loss targets, shed the most pounds

Ripple effect: A study found obese participants, who befriended those with similar weight loss targets, shed the most pounds

Belonging to a social network boosted people's morale and encouraged their dieting efforts.

Researchers now believe that, just as obesity has been found to be contagious, weight loss can also have a ripple effect.

Lead researcher Tricia Leahey, Ph.D., from the Miriam Hospital, Brown University said: 'We know that obesity can be socially
contagious, but now we know that social networks play a significant role
in weight loss as well.

'In our study, weight loss clearly
clustered within teams, which suggests that teammates influenced each
other, perhaps by providing accountability, setting expectations of
weight loss, and providing encouragement and support.'

Prof Leahey investigated the
results of the 2009 Shape Up Rhode Island (SURI) campaign – a 12- week online weight loss competition.

Now we know that social networks play a significant role
in weight loss as well

To promote cost-effective weight
loss initiatives, online team-based weight loss interventions are becoming increasingly popular.

During the dieting contest, participants joined a team and competed
against other groups.

In total 3,330
overweight or obese individuals (BMI of 31.2 or more) were involved, representing
987 teams, each averaging between 5 and 11 members.

Participants who lost the most weight (at least 5 percent of their
initial body weight) tended to be on the same teams.

And those who reported higher levels of
teammate interaction increased their odds of achieving set targets by 20 per cent.

The current study, published in the journal Obesity, is the first to
examine the effects of teammates and social influence on individual
weight loss.

Prof Leahey added: 'We're all influenced by the people
around us, so if we can harness this positive peer pressure and these
positive social influences, we can create a social environment to help
encourage additional weight loss.'

Obesity can spark numerous health
problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

In 2008, the latest year with available figures, nearly a quarter of adults (over 16 years of age) in England were obese.

Meanwhile the number of overweight children was around one in seven.