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 Repair Orange County California


    June 15, 2021 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Repair


    June 15, 2021 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Repair San Clemente California

    You need to take part in a contest for one of the best sites on the web. I will recommend this website!


    June 15, 2021 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Repair Nearby

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you, However I am experiencing troubles with your RSS. I donít understand the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else getting similar RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    June 15, 2021 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Repair Shop


    June 16, 2021 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RV Repair Fountain Valley

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


    June 16, 2021 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sprinter Repair Orange County

    Everything is very open with a very clear description of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing!


    June 16, 2021 at 06:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Repair Orange County California

    I really like reading through a post that will make people think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!


    June 16, 2021 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. rent a car near me

    June 16, 2021 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. printing near me

    Very good info. Lucky me I discovered your website by accident (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!


    June 16, 2021 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. family dollar near me

    Howdy! This article couldnít be written much better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he'll have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!


    June 16, 2021 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. outlets near me


    June 16, 2021 at 17:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. tire repair near me


    June 16, 2021 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Repair Near Me Now

    I could not resist commenting. Well written!


    June 16, 2021 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. indian restaurants near me

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that make the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 16, 2021 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repairs Near Me

    Next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me just as much as this particular one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly thought you would have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.


    June 16, 2021 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Repair San Clemente California


    June 17, 2021 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. gas stations near me

    Hi, I do believe this is a great web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to return yet again since I saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    June 17, 2021 at 02:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. old navy near me

    Everyone loves it whenever people get together and share thoughts. Great blog, continue the good work!


    June 17, 2021 at 06:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Repair Huntington Beach

    I really like reading an article that will make men and women think. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!


    June 17, 2021 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Repair Nearby

    Good blog you have got here.. Itís difficult to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 17, 2021 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Camper Repairs Near Me


    June 17, 2021 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Repair Mission Viejo


    June 17, 2021 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. arbys near me

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Appreciate it!


    June 17, 2021 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. pet store near me


    June 17, 2021 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. places for rent near me

    After checking out a number of the articles on your blog, I honestly like your technique of writing a blog. I book marked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my web site as well and let me know your opinion.


    June 17, 2021 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. aquarium near me

    An interesting discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you need to publish more about this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but generally people do not speak about these subjects. To the next! Best wishes!!


    June 17, 2021 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. hospital near me

    I want to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I certainly loved every bit of it. I've got you book marked to check out new stuff you postÖ


    June 17, 2021 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. vitamin shoppe near me

    I couldnít resist commenting. Very well written!


    June 17, 2021 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. chicken wings near me


    June 17, 2021 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. aldi near me

    Good info. Lucky me I found your site by chance (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!


    June 17, 2021 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. movies near me


    June 18, 2021 at 02:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. state farm near me

    This is the perfect site for anybody who hopes to understand this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want toÖHaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic that's been written about for ages. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!


    June 18, 2021 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Camper Repair Shops Near Me


    June 18, 2021 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Repair Near Me Now

    After exploring a few of the articles on your site, I seriously like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my web site too and let me know your opinion.


    June 18, 2021 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Camper Repair Shops Near Me


    June 18, 2021 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Repair Near Me Now


    June 18, 2021 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Repair Near My Location

    I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!


    June 18, 2021 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. hertz near me


    June 18, 2021 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RV Repair California


    June 18, 2021 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. bait shop near me

    bookmarked!!, I love your blog!


    June 18, 2021 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    I want to to thank you for this wonderful read!! I definitely loved every bit of it. I have you book-marked to look at new stuff you postÖ


    June 18, 2021 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Camper Repair Shop Near Me


    June 19, 2021 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Repair Around Me

    I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. This article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.


    June 19, 2021 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Repair


    June 19, 2021 at 04:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Repair Orange County

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I'm going to revisit yet again since i have book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    June 19, 2021 at 04:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Camper Repair Shops Near Me


    June 19, 2021 at 04:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RV Repair Santa Ana

    When I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    June 19, 2021 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Repair Places Near Me

    Hi, I do think this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may come back yet again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    June 19, 2021 at 06:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Camper Repair Near Me


    June 19, 2021 at 07:20 | 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.