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Friendships influence weight loss/gain: study

Researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine found that subjects were more likely to gain weight if they had friends who were heavier than they were. The opposite was also true: people were more likely to lose weight -- or gain weight at a slower pace -- if they had thinner friends.

Whether you're hopelessly out of shape or in prime physical condition, your friends may be the ones to blame (or thank).

Researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine examined data from two large suburban high schools and found that students were more likely to gain weight if they had friends who were heavier than they were.

The converse was also true: students were more likely to lose weight -- or gain weight at a slower pace -- if they had a slimmer groups of friends.

The team led by David Shoham used data from schools that participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in 1994 and 1995.

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Over the course of two years, the students were surveyed about their weight, friendships, sports activities and television and computer time. Researchers also calculated each student's body mass index (BMI).

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The results, published in the journal PLoS ONE last month, found that students were more likely to gain weight if they had friends who were heavier than they were. The converse was also true: students were more likely to lose weight -- or gain weight at a slower pace -- if they had a slimmer groups of friends.

Findings suggest that your friends may influence your lifestyle decisions both directly and indirectly, according to the researchers. Directly, your friends may nudge you toward say, going for a bike ride or trying a new yoga class, or conversely, sharing a triple fudge sundae. Indirectly, your friends could influence what you regard as appropriate body size and eating and exercise habits.

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