Just as friends can influence your taste in music, the slang you use, or your good and bad behavior in general, this also applies to a person’s weight, particularly for the young and highly impressionable.

A Loyola University study of high school students confirmed this with new evidence showed the students were more likely to gain weight if they had friends who were heavier than they were. The same held true in reverse: if their friends were leaner than they were, the students were more likely to lose weight, or at least gain weight at a slower pace.

"These results can help us develop better interventions to prevent obesity," said study author David Shoham, PhD. "We should not be treating adolescents in isolation."

Part of the motivation for the study was to see if people of similar weight levels were simply drawn together or if friends influenced one another to eventually make a generally obese or thin social circle.

To determine this, researchers examined students at two very different high schools: one urban with ethnic diversity and a rural school that was predominately white. Simply put, what they found was that it was a little bit of both. Yes, “birds of a feather” do “flock” together. However, even after controlling for the friend-selecting process, there was a 40 percent chance a student's BMI would lower after joining a social circle and a 27 percent chance it would increase.

Shoham admitted to several limitations in the study, including that it was based on self-reporting, which is susceptible to personal biases. While he says that his study supports the influence of social circles and like-people congregating, one study should never “be taken as conclusive and our future work will attempt to address many of these limitations."

Author's Bio: 

Jason Knapfel is Content Manager at Webfor, an Internet marketing company. One of their clients is Oregon Weight Loss Surgery, a surgery clinic based in Portland, Oregon.