Regular churchgoers are ‘likely to become obese’

30 March 2011

by Ed Thornton

STUDIES in the past have suggested that regular churchgoing is good for mental health. A new study, however, suggests that it significantly in­creases the chances of becoming obese.

Researchers at Northwestern Uni­versity, Chicago, who tracked 2433 men and women between the ages of 20 and 32 over an 18-year period, found that young adults who at­tended “a religious function at least once a week” were “50 per cent more likely to be obese by middle age”, a statement accompanying the study said.

The study’s lead investigator, Matthew Feinstein, said: “We don’t know why frequent religious parti-ci­pation is associated with develop­ment of obesity. . . It’s possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happi­ness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity.”

The researchers said that the find­ings only showed that those “with fre­quent religious involvement are more likely to become obese, and not that they have worse overall health . . . than those who are non-religious”.

Research published last year by the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke University, which surveyed 1800 United Methodist clerics in North Carolina, found that rates of obesity were ten per cent higher than among their counterparts in other pro­fessions (News, 3 September).

A co-writer of the report, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, said: “One pastor told us that if he sampled Mrs Jones’s dessert, he had to sample all the others’ desserts, or he would cause offence.”

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