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. adult store near me

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this blog.


    June 12, 2021 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. printers near me

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It's the little changes that will make the biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!


    June 13, 2021 at 00:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. fried chicken near me


    June 13, 2021 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. asian massage near me

    Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this page.


    June 13, 2021 at 02:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. tool rental near me

    Iím amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog thatís both educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough people are speaking intelligently about. Now i'm very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something regarding this.


    June 13, 2021 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. wells fargo near me


    June 13, 2021 at 03:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. old navy near me


    June 13, 2021 at 05:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. wineries near me


    June 13, 2021 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. vons near me


    June 13, 2021 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. tow truck near me


    June 13, 2021 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. att near me

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It's the little changes that make the most significant changes. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 13, 2021 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. national parks near me

    Iím impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog thatís both educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. Now i'm very happy that I came across this during my search for something concerning this.


    June 13, 2021 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. https://www.yamatocosmos.com

    Best view i have ever seen !


    June 13, 2021 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. haunted houses near me

    I seriously love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím wanting to create my own website and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is called. Cheers!


    June 13, 2021 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. bowling alley near me


    June 13, 2021 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. tire repair near me


    June 13, 2021 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. computer repair near me


    June 13, 2021 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. realtors near me

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It's the little changes that make the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 13, 2021 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. lawyers near me


    June 13, 2021 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. notary near me


    June 14, 2021 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. dmv near me

    There's definately a lot to know about this issue. I love all of the points you've made.


    June 14, 2021 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. doctors near me

    Great site you've got here.. Itís hard to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 14, 2021 at 01:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. strip club near me


    June 14, 2021 at 01:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. https://www.yamatocosmos.com

    Best view i have ever seen !


    June 14, 2021 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. hardware stores near me

    I used to be able to find good advice from your blog posts.


    June 14, 2021 at 03:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. kitchen supplies near me

    Your style is so unique compared to other folks I've read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this blog.


    June 14, 2021 at 04:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. tree service near me

    There is definately a great deal to learn about this topic. I really like all the points you have made.


    June 14, 2021 at 05:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. chicken wings near me


    June 14, 2021 at 07:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. chevy dealer near me


    June 14, 2021 at 08:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. burlington near me


    June 14, 2021 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. used furniture near me


    June 14, 2021 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. escape room near me

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that produce the biggest changes. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 14, 2021 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. boats for sale near me

    Excellent blog you have here.. Itís difficult to find good quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 14, 2021 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. hobby lobby near me


    June 14, 2021 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. ace hardware near me

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may revisit yet again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.


    June 14, 2021 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. library near me


    June 14, 2021 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. liquor store open near me

    After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. There has to be a means you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    June 14, 2021 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Nearby RV Repairs

    A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I think that you should publish more about this issue, it may not be a taboo matter but usually folks don't talk about these issues. To the next! All the best!!


    June 14, 2021 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV Repair Near My Location


    June 14, 2021 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RV Repair Nearby

    Great site you've got here.. Itís hard to find good quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 14, 2021 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Repair San Clemente California


    June 15, 2021 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    I seriously love your blog.. Great colors & theme. Did you create this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as Iím attempting to create my own personal website and want to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Thank you!


    June 15, 2021 at 00:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Repair Seal Beach


    June 15, 2021 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Repair Around Me


    June 15, 2021 at 03:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Repair Places Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 03:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Repair Garden Grove


    June 15, 2021 at 05:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Repairs Nearby

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. There's no doubt that that you ought to write more on this issue, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people do not talk about these topics. To the next! Best wishes!!


    June 15, 2021 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    After looking at a number of the blog articles on your web page, I truly appreciate your technique of blogging. I book-marked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my website as well and let me know your opinion.


    June 15, 2021 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repair


    June 15, 2021 at 09:30 | 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.