There's not much I can say about this latest wave of "fat friends make you fat" mania, other than to point out that the researchers who concocted this "study" fairly tortured their data into submission. Methodology HURTS, baby.
For starters, they didn't actually follow people over the course of years - that takes forethought and money and we don't bother with that anymore. They took handwritten tracking sheets from Framingham Heart Study interviews conducted between 1971 and 2003 (only seven interviews per person over the course of that 32-yr stretch) on which the interviewees were asked to list *one* person they might be in contact with in a few years.
From this list the authors created "38,611 different people connections" (people connections, I like that) and plugged that mess of data into a virtual network imaging program to create pretty 3-dimentional designs
based on algorithms. Note: different algorithm = different result. Then in order to wring any kind of statical connections from it all, "These authors created models and ran countless simulations, with so many assumptions and complex selections and elimination of variables, that no one could hope to unravel it."
Even then, they couldn't get good odds - so instead of reporting results were null they used the time-honored technical trick of comparing them to each other. The final analysis? Obesity was associated less with genetics, geographical proximity, being married, etc. than with... wait for it... SAME SEX MALE FRIENDS.
Since I'm sure 99% of the press this report is getting is aimed at women, why is nobody (except the the few
, the proud
, and the scientifically literate
) pointing out that same sex female and opposite sex friendships had no bearing whatsoever on social BMI, no matter how much data cosmetology went on...?
Well, I guess I did have something to say about it after all. Anthropologists should, particularly medical anthropologists. This framing of fat as contagion, as impurity, as danger, is a cultural issue that we need to address - preferably sometime before the advent of fat internment camps.