Something about religion makes people fatter.

New research in Chicago has found that young people who do religious activities at least once a week are twice as likely to become obese at middle age as those with no religious involvement.

“It is likely that the regular intake of traditional, calorie-rich comfort foods at religious gatherings is partially responsible for the greater risk of obesity that we found,” lead researcher Matthew Feinstein told Metro.


Feinstein and colleagues from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine kept track of the religious habits and weights of 2,433 young men and women for 18 years.

At the beginning of the study subjects were between age 20 and 32, and all were a normal weight.

Several religions were included: Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Jews. Those who had a high frequency of religious participation (attending at least once a week) were 50 per cent more likely to be obese by middle age.

Which comes first? Religion or obesity?

This study establishes that something connected to the high religious involvement is associated with weight gain over time, not that obese people take up religion.

Feinstein suggests religious groups should use their get-togethers to educate the faithful about preventing obesity through better nutrition and regular physical activity.

The data were presented at an American Heart Association scientific session in Atlanta, Ga.

The people in the study were part of a larger study called the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults. The object of the study was to find out which groups are at higher risk for obesity, and therefore diseases and earlier death.

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