Overweight friends eat more when they snack together: study

Wed Aug 19, 2009 7:58pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If you're dining with overweight friends, beware.

A small U.S. study had found that overweight children and teenagers eat more when they have a snack with an overweight friend rather than with a thinner peer.

Researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo studied a group of 9- to 15-year-olds and found that all youngsters, regardless of their weight, tended to eat more when they snacked with a friend rather than a peer they did not know.

But the biggest calorie intakes were seen when an overweight child snacked with an overweight friend.

The findings, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, highlight the role of friends' influence in how much children eat and, possibly, in their weight control.

Researcher Sarah-Jean Salvy, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the State University of New York, said it was not surprising that children eat more when they are with friends instead of strangers.

She told Reuters Health that the same pattern has been found in adults which can be partly explained by people being more self-conscious around strangers.

But this can also be partly explained as friends act as "permission-givers." "They set the norm for what is appropriate to do, or in this case eat," said Salvy.

For the study, Salvy and her colleagues had 23 overweight and 42 normal-weight children and teens spend 45 minutes with either a friend or an unfamiliar peer.   Continued...

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