Religion = Healthy? Obesity Rates Higher Among Churchgoers


Image: colros via flickr

Young people who are active in their religion are more likely to become obese by the time they reach middle age, according to a new study. Participants who go to church at least once a week were found to be about twice as likely to have a higher body mass index than those who attended infrequently or not at all.
The LA Times reports:

Young adults age 20 to 32 who were on the high end of religious involvement were 50% more likely to be obese by the time they hit middle age compared with those in the "none" category. This was true even after researchers adjusted for sex, age, race, education, income and the participants' body mass index at the start of the study.

More about the research, which was presented at an American Heart Association conference, from CNN:

"Churches pay more attention to obvious vices like smoking or drinking," said Matthew Feinstein, lead author of the research and fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Our best guess about why is that...more frequent participation in church is associated with good works and people may be rewarding themselves with large meals that are more caloric in nature than we would like."

The [research] involved 2,433 people enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. The group was tested - at first between 20 and 32 years old - for various cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and smoking. Those same tests were repeated in the same group over the next 25 years.

CNN quotes a pastor in Chicago who suggests two factors that may be involved: the disappearance of church-sponsored sports leagues, and that church attendance will often displace involvement in less sedentary activities.

Although the researchers cannot pinpoint the exact reason behind the connection between weight gain and church, the advantage is that at least churches gather captive audiences to speak to about obesity and how to combat it. (It's a good place to bring up environmental issues, too.)

More on obesity:
Obesity is Causing Higher Health Costs, So Get Skinny by Going Green
5 Reasons Why the Obesity Epidemic is Spreading to Animals
America's Obesity Epidemic Still Growing: What You Can Do About It
Green Eyes On: Obesity and Organics

Tags: Diseases | Religion | Smoking