Frequent churchgoers frequently fatter
March 24th, 2011
10:18 AM ET

Frequent churchgoers frequently fatter

Young, religiously active people are more likely than their non-religious counterparts to become obese in middle age, according to new research. In fact, frequent religious involvement appears to almost double the risk of obesity compared with little or no involvement.

What is unclear from the new research is why religion might be associated with overeating.

"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 new research, presented at an American Heart Association conference dedicated to physical activity, metabolism and cardiovascular disease, 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.

The results were mixed for many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but as researchers analyzed the data, one disparity stood out.  Those who reported attending church weekly, or more often, were significantly more likely to have a higher body mass index than those who attended infrequently, or never.

Kenneth F. Ferraro, author of similar studies linking obesity with religion, suggested that marriage may have played a role in the weight gain.

"The time period studied is when many Americans get married," said Ferraro, director of the Center on Aging and the Life Course at Purdue University.  "We know that weight gain is common after marriage and that marriage is highly valued in most religious groups.  Thus, one wonders if the results could be partially due to religious people being more likely to get married earlier and then gaining weight."

Those church potlucks probably don't help either.

"There's certainly a church culture around eating," said Erik Christensen, a pastor at St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square in Chicago, Illinois. "What I see among congregants in their 20s and 30s is they are very fit and what I see among congregants in their 50s and 60s is disproportionate obesity."

Christensen suggested that the virtual disappearance of church-sponsored baseball and basketball leagues may be part of the problem.  He added that the decision to attend church is sometimes made at the expense of being involved in athletic or recreational activities.

But he kept coming back to that culture of eating.

"What's ironic to me is that in my congregation we are working on a childhood obesity initiative and spend a lot of time thinking about weight and food," said Christensen.  "We sit and have a potluck and talk about obesity."

Yet another irony is the number of studies suggesting that religion and faith are actually beneficial for health.  Recent studies suggest that a "relaxation response" in the brain among people who pray, meditate, or engage in otherwise relaxing activities may alleviate anxiety and stress. Stress is implicated in many illnesses.  Other studies suggest an association between church-going and longevity.

"On the whole being religious has been shown by many studies to be associated with better mental health, lower smoking rates, lower mortality rates and better overall health status," said Feinstein.  "There are a whole lot of things religious people are doing right, but it's just this specific area where there appears to be room for improvement."

The upshot of the new research, said Feinstein, is that knowing there may be an obesity problem among church-goers provides a captive audience for intervention.

"The real value of the study is not understanding why," said Feinstein.  "What this study does is highlights a group that could potentially benefit from targeted anti-obesity initiatives. That's exciting because there is a lot of infrastructure already in place in religious communities."

soundoff (919 Responses)
  1. RV Suspension Repair Near Me


    June 23, 2021 at 08:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. SEO Marketing Companies


    June 23, 2021 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. rural king near me

    Your style is really unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I'll just bookmark this site.


    June 23, 2021 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Tire Repair Near Me


    June 23, 2021 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. SEO Marketing Companies

    I need to to thank you for this wonderful read!! I certainly loved every bit of it. I have got you book marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 23, 2021 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Local Marketing Agency


    June 23, 2021 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ups store near me


    June 24, 2021 at 05:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Local Marketing Firms


    June 24, 2021 at 06:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. used cars near me

    Hello there! This post couldnít be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this information to him. Fairly certain he'll have a good read. I appreciate you for sharing!


    June 24, 2021 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Digital Marketing Specialists


    June 24, 2021 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. mcdonalds near me


    June 24, 2021 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Video Marketing Service


    June 24, 2021 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Body Repair Near Me


    June 24, 2021 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Camper Repairs Near Me

    I couldnít resist commenting. Very well written!


    June 24, 2021 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repair Near My Location

    I'd like to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this blog. I really hope to view the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own website now 😉


    June 24, 2021 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repair Shops Near My Location


    June 24, 2021 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. nearest trailer repair shop

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for supplying these details.


    June 24, 2021 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. rv parts store close to me


    June 24, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Generator Repair Near Me

    Itís hard to find educated people for this subject, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    June 24, 2021 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Window Repair Near Me

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be useful to read content from other writers and practice something from other sites.


    June 25, 2021 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Repair Orange County


    June 25, 2021 at 05:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Tire Repair Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sprinter Repair Near Me

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me lunch simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this issue here on your web page.


    June 25, 2021 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Tamela Drozdowski

    Read this article on how I stop my hair loss: https://bit.ly/3gJqhQH


    June 25, 2021 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV And Camper Repair Near Me

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and also the rest of the website is extremely good.


    June 25, 2021 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. nectar collector dab

    What Is Dab Mat?http://www37.tok2.com/home/neverminduploader/cgi-bin/aska.cgi/rk=0/?popup=1All products intended for use with legal smoking/vaping mixtures only .


    June 25, 2021 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.