Don't Inhale -- Obesity's Contagious!

     Having trouble losing weight? According to several news outlets, the trouble may be your friends.


     “Keep your heavier friends close, but your thinner enemies closer,” said CBS medical reporter Dr. Jon LaPook.


     “NBC Nightly News,” “CBS Evening News” and USA Today all presented that perspective based on a new study that called obesity “contagious.”


     On the July 25 “Evening News,” LaPook worried that obesity is “a socially contagious disease spreading person-to-person almost like a virus.”


     “Both obesity and thinness are socially contagious,” the study’s co-author James Fowler told USA Today. Fowler is an associate professor of political science at the University of California-San Diego.


     Each news outlet took the study seriously and offered advice for those trying to lose weight.


     “If you are trying to lose or control your weight, pick your friends carefully,” said John Foreyt, an obesity researcher at BaylorCollege, on the front page of the July 26 USA Today. “You may not want to be around people who are gaining weight or who are too heavy.”


     CBS medical reporter Dr. Jon LaPook told viewers that the study also suggested friends can help you lose weight – by partnering with you to work out and eat better.


     “So either follow their example [two friends losing weight] or keep your heavier friends close, but your thinner enemies closer,” LaPook advised.


     But those news outlets left out a ridiculous claim of the study – apparently obesity can spread through telephone and e-mail contact.


     “Conversely, the study claims that people can ‘catch’ obesity from their family and friends – even if the corpulent acquaintance lives 500 miles away,” noted the Center for Consumer Freedom.


     The media often worry about the “epidemic” of obesity. On July 23, NBC and CBS touted another study that suggested diet soda caused heart disease, despite the study’s authors admitting the data was inconclusive.


     A 2004 Business & Media Institute study found that obesity stories in the media often blame business, feature anti-food industry activists, and favor government-imposed solutions.