The term epidemic was traditionally used to describe the rapid spread of infectious diseases such as influenza or polio. But the argument was made that the term could be used in a non-biological sense to refer to widespread and growing social problems.
Now comes word that obesity actually is contagious. Fat is not caused by a virus, bacterium or other pathogen. Rather, it spreads to the waists, thighs and other jiggly regions of the body through social networks.
In a fascinating article in today's New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, show that if a close friend becomes obese, your likelihood of becoming obese soars by 171 per cent. If it's a casual friend or acquaintance, the risk is still a notable 57 per cent, and your friend's friends have a similarly increased risk of obesity.
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