Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Weight loss can be contagious, study suggests

Date:
February 14, 2012
Source:
Lifespan
Summary:
Researchers have found that teammates in a team-based weight loss competition significantly influenced each other's weight loss, suggesting that weight loss can be contagious.

Is weight loss "contagious"? According to a new study published online in the journal Obesity, teammates in a team-based weight loss competition significantly influenced each other's weight loss, suggesting that shedding pounds can have a ripple effect.

Researchers from The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University found that team members not only achieved similar weight loss outcomes, but participants who said their teammates played a large role in their weight loss actually lost the most weight.

"We know that obesity can be socially contagious, but now we know that social networks play a significant role in weight loss as well, particularly team-based weight loss competitions," said lead author Tricia Leahey, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital and Alpert Medical School. "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."

Obesity remains a common, serious and costly disease in the United States. About one-third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and no state has met the nation's Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15 percent. Obesity and its associated health problems, including heart disease and diabetes, continue to have a significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system, costing the nation hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

To promote cost-effective weight loss initiatives, online team-based weight loss interventions are increasing in popularity as a way to encourage weight loss in large groups of people. The current study is the first to examine the effects of teammates and social influence on individual weight loss during one of these weight loss competitions.

The findings are based on the results of the 2009 Shape Up Rhode Island (SURI) campaign, a 12-week statewide online weight loss competition designed by study co-author Rajiv Kumar, M.D. Participants joined with a team and could compete against other teams in three divisions: weight loss, physical activity and pedometer steps. The weight loss competition included 3,330 overweight or obese individuals (BMI of 31.2 or greater), representing 987 teams averaging between 5 and 11 members each. The majority of these individuals enrolled in all three divisions.

Weight loss outcomes were clearly determined by which team an individual was on. Participants who lost clinically significant amounts of weight (at least 5 percent of their initial body weight) tended to be on the same teams, and being on a team with more teammates in the weight loss division was also associated with a greater weight loss. Individuals who reported higher levels of teammate social influence increased their odds of achieving a clinically significant weight loss by 20 percent. This effect was stronger than any other team characteristic, Leahey said.

"This is the first study to show that in these team-based campaigns, who's on your team really matters," she added. "Being surrounded by others with similar health goals all working to achieve the same thing may have really helped people with their weight loss efforts."

However, Leahey noted that individual characteristics were also associated with weight outcomes. Obese individuals had a greater percentage of weight loss than overweight participants. Team captains also lost more weight than team members, possibly due to their increased motivation and engagement in the campaign. Leahey says that future weight loss team competitions may consider requiring team members to share the leadership role.

"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," she said.

Leahey is a researcher with The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior (research) at Alpert Medical School. Additional co-authors of the study include Rena R. Wing, Ph.D., director of The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Alpert Medical School; and Brad M. Weinberg, M.D. and Rajiv Kumar, M.D. co-founders of ShapeUp, Inc.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Lifespan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jessica Gokee LaRose, Tricia M. Leahey, Brad M. Weinberg, Rajiv Kumar, Rena R. Wing. Young adults’ performance in a low intensity weight loss campaign. Obesity, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/oby.2012.30

Cite This Page:

Lifespan. "Weight loss can be contagious, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214122124.htm>.
Lifespan. (2012, February 14). Weight loss can be contagious, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214122124.htm
Lifespan. "Weight loss can be contagious, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214122124.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Fear They're Losing Battle Against Ebola

Doctors Fear They're Losing Battle Against Ebola

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) As a third American missionary is confirmed to have contracted Ebola in Liberia, doctors on the ground in West Africa fear they're losing the battle against the outbreak. (Sept. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tech Giants Bet on 3D Headsets for Gaming, Healthcare

Tech Giants Bet on 3D Headsets for Gaming, Healthcare

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) When Facebook acquired the virtual reality hardware developer Oculus VR in March for $2 billion, CEO Mark Zuckerberg hailed the firm's technology as "a new communication platform." Duration: 02:24 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins