Religion Correlation between obesity and religiosity

In the USA, fundamentalist Christians and most people who consider themselves very religious tend to reject many biological facts (evolution of species, existence of genetic predispositions, genetics playing a major role in intelligence or temperament, etc.). I was wondering if this ignorance would lead them to make detrimental choices about their health and lifestyle, which would result, for instance in much higher rates of obesity. It turns out that it does, especially for women. Have a look at this study: Does Religion Increase the Prevalence and Incidence of Obesity in Adulthood? Note that it dates from 2006 and uses data from 1986 to 1994, so obesity rates are considerably higher today.

Feel free to read the study, but in short Baptists and other fundamentalist Christians have by far the highest rates of obesity, while Jews and non-Christians have 1% or less of obesity.

TABLE 2

PERCENT OBESE AT WAVE 1 AND WAVE 3 BY RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: AMERICANS’ CHANGING LIVES, 1986–1994

Number of Cases, W1Obesity
W1W3
Baptist a1,09824%30%
Fundamentalist Protestant b2501822
Pietistic Protestant c5091319
Nondenominational Protestant16655
Reformation-Era Protestant45399
Catholic7201717
Nontraditionalist d9223
Jewish5911
Other non-Christian e180.20.7
None23767
Total3,602

a Includes Southern Baptist, North American Baptist, Fundamentalist Baptist.
b Includes Church of Christ, Pentecostal/Assembly of God, Church of God.
c Includes Methodist, Christian Church, African Methodist Episcopal.
d Includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventists, and Christian Scientist.
e Includes Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist.
 
my observation here in northern Europe : most middle aged and older women wearing a hijab are fat
my guess is that they are not free to move and have to conform to the rules that belong to their traditional and conservative religion and ethnicity
 
I think so too, for instance, I stayed for a couple of days with a simple family in Egypt, they weren't particularly religious, but still, women should not go for a walk without aim, they could not ride a bicycle or a donkey, they could not play table tennis... Just to mention a few don'ts. Basically, they were just staying in house and cooking or taking care of other domestic chores.

Of course it is easy to put on weight with such lifestyle.
 
There are too many confounding factors, imo, to be able to pin down a simple cause and effect in this case, at least in the U.S. There may be a correlation, but I don't think it's because fundamentalists don't believe that high calorie intake or high consumption of fats and sugars make you fat. There's no religious reason not to believe that, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find an obese Pentecostal who wouldn't acknowledge that eating certain foods will make you fat. It's like cigarette smoking in a way. Everyone knows it's bad for you, but people do it anyway.

Ethnicity plays a role. Genetics is a big factor in body weight and/or BMI, as scientists are finally coming to understand. Obesity is high in the south, which has a lot of fundamentalists, partly because of the diet, but also because of their ethnicity. I don't think it's a coincidence that those people, predominantly British Isles in ancestry, have high rates of obesity, and so do the British, who are extremely irreligious, by American standards.

Obesity levels are pretty high in the midwest where there's a very high concentration of Germans and Scandinavians, even though they're hardly fundamentalists.

Poverty/Social Class has a lot to do with it as well. Cooking healthy, natural food is expensive. American fast food is so cheap that it can cost less to eat that way.

So, while a lot of fundamentalists may be obese, I don't think it's their religious beliefs per se which are the cause.
 
obesity has more to do with lifestyle than with genes/ethnicity
 
obesity has more to do with lifestyle than with genes/ethnicity

maybe it's also possible that people from colder regions are building fat faster than people in warmer regions. i can eat as much as i want i won't gain weight but as a consequense it gets too cold for me quite fast here. then i guess it also has to do with iq and i wouldn't be surprised if religious people in the west have a lower average iq. you really need to be a bit of an ignorant or badly educated if you can stay religious.
beeing a bit obese is not that special though. there is just a certain level after which i start to question the physical or mental health of a person..
 
obesity has more to do with lifestyle than with genes/ethnicity

I never opined as to which factor is more important, just that there are confounding variables involved.

The current state of the research says genes have a lot to do with it.

See:
https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1007603

However, environment, i.e. lifestyle, may be more important.
https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l4067

Fat is indeed a good insulator in cold climates, which may have led to a certain amount of selection for storage of it. Also, you need more calories to survive in a cold climate, because you need a certain amount of calories just to keep warm. This influenced diet or the type of cooking, which more traditional people may cling to more than others. What could be burned off when you're farming in a cold climate turns to fat in the modern, industrialized world.
 
Fat is indeed a good insulator in cold climates, which may have led to a certain amount of selection for storage of it. Also, you need more calories to survive in a cold climate, because you need a certain amount of calories just to keep warm. This influenced diet or the type of cooking, which more traditional people may cling to more than others. What could be burned off when you're farming in a cold climate turns to fat in the modern, industrialized world.

The USA is a good country to study environmental factors on obesity since it is such a big country with many climatic zones, yet all people share the same culture and a similar diet everywhere (diet varies more between social classes than between regions).

If people needed fat as an insulation against cold, we would see higher rates of obesity in northern states, and hardly any in southern states. Yet that is not what we observe. Obesity is most prevalent in the Southeast - the so-called Bible Belt. The correlation with religiosity is obvious when we compare the map of obesity with the map of

obesity_by_county_large.png



Map fo religiosity in the USA (source):

usmap.png


It's not just the same states, but often even the exact same counties where religiosity is high that suffer from high obesity. In New England, both are low, except in inland Maine. In Florida, coastal areas are less religious and have less obesity than the central counties. Ditto for California. In Oregon, the Bay area around Seattle has low obesity and low religiosity, in contrast with the southern half of the state. And so on.

It even works for ethnic minorities. In the Midwest, hot spots of obesity and religiosity corresponds to the Native American reservations in South Dakota.
 
I never opined as to which factor is more important, just that there are confounding variables involved.

The current state of the research says genes have a lot to do with it.

See:
https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1007603

However, environment, i.e. lifestyle, may be more important.
https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l4067

Fat is indeed a good insulator in cold climates, which may have led to a certain amount of selection for storage of it. Also, you need more calories to survive in a cold climate, because you need a certain amount of calories just to keep warm. This influenced diet or the type of cooking, which more traditional people may cling to more than others. What could be burned off when you're farming in a cold climate turns to fat in the modern, industrialized world.

genes do play a role, but it should not be an excuse to become fat, lifestyle is more important

fat is a way to store energy for times of food shortage
some animals even have to become fat before the winter to survive

fat does not burn as fast as sugars or carbohydrates, it is a slow energy releaser
there are only 2 ways to loose fat :
either you lower your calorie intake below you daily requirements of energy
or you do endurance sports avoiding highly elevated hartbeats, so the slow burning of the fat can sustain your relativeley moderated physical efforts
 
Cold weather is not going to select for fat anymore because most Americans have central heating, proper clothing, and don't do manual labor outside in the cold. I was talking about thousands and thousands of years of evolution acting on which alleles will be present in which genomes.

The coasts of Florida, to some extent, but primarily the southern counties like Miami, Palm Beach, Naples, parts of Sarasota County, have high concentrations of Jews and Italians, nary a WASP to be found. Trust me, I see the names every time I take the elevator, and in the local paper. :) The WASPS populate the Northwest and the Panhandle, and even the interior to some degree. In California, the interior is largely populated by people who migrated there from the Midwest, many after it became a virtual "dustbowl". They're farmers, and as is usual with farmers, more traditional in their habits as well as attitudes. Then there are the Hispanics, whom, it seems to me, depending on the proportion of non-European ancestry, have more or fewer problems with obesity. They confound the statistics as well, no matter whether they are conservative Catholics or Evangelicals. The Amerindians have a huge problem with the modern high starch diets, from what I can see, whether or not they're religious.

In this vein, Catholics are a mixed bag. They are more observant than mainstream Protestants, less so than fundamentalists to my knowledge, but I don't know any Catholics who don't believe in evolution, for example, no matter their level of observance, and that includes daily communicants. Yet, a Catholic in New York is going to have different standards about food and obesity than part Amerindian/part French Canadian Catholics in the upper midwest.

There are just too many confounding variables to single out religiosity. Plus, there's nothing in nutrition information which is contrary to conservative, fundamentalist religious beliefs.

I actually know some fundamentalists, some "born" that way, and some who have converted (in my husband's family), and they know very well the effects of a high fat/sugar diet combined with a more sedentary lifestyle. They just choose to ignore it. Interestingly, if they belong to very strict sects, they do give up cigarettes and alcohol.
 
Oh my God you'd think you were walking in on Davidski talking about Italians...this is called a 'false equivalency'...look, I don't want to offend anyone but I don't think Europeans who get their information on Americans from their media and memes and whose primary contact with an evangelical is Ned Flanders should be casting aspersions on anyone on this side of the pond. I will deal with two errors in the original post, one of them rather laughable. I am not going to speak for the "world is 6000 years old" squad, but simply because I reject the 'world is an entire accident' proposal does not mean I reject the empirical findings of scientists on actual modern human bodies. In fact, my study of genetics reinforces my belief in design. Never once have I heard anyone rejecting the findings of scientists concerning the workings of the heart and the various problems one faces with added weight. For the second, I have a very simple explanation: most of the overweight counties are historically farming; these people still eat like they farm all day when they work desk jobs. It's part of the culture. Also, a great deal of the highlighted counties in the South are majority African-American; Africans often were selected for the thrifty gene in metabolism because of sketchy food supplies, and now when food is plentiful, well, you see what happens. There, I hope I have cleared up these misconceptions. (for the record I am 5'9" and weigh 157 pounds; don't know what that is in kg)
 
Americans were much more religious in previous decades, yet much slimmer than people living today. An answer to obesity must account for its recent rise, first in the US and now in England (and some other countries in Europe too?), despite the fall in religiosity across the board.

A more sedentary lifestyle (office work vs farm work) and the rise in the consumption of prepared foods are obvious sources. You can make the argument that more religious people tend to live a more unhealthy lifestyle and eat a more unhealthy diet. I don't assume that religious people are more ignorant (the smartest man I know personally is very religious), but they may be more conservative and reluctant to accept "trendy" diets.

The truth is that the US leads in many trends, including obesity. To a great extent we invented the modern diet of boxed foods and suffer for it. The rest of the world will suffer the same when they follow our lead.

I'm "trendy" enough to avoid prepared foods (I'm lucky because my wife is an excellent cook) and take a lot of exercise (I'm a runner). BTW, I'm 6'1" and weigh 165 lbs, but that is mainly due to genetics (my father and grandfather were both skinny and religious).
 
Poverty/Social Class has a lot to do with it as well. Cooking healthy, natural food is expensive. American fast food is so cheap that it can cost less to eat that way.

Angela, I have to disagree with you. Fast food is not cheaper than homemade food, it's far more expensive. What it is, is convenient and, because the high fat and starch content, it's tasty. I haven't eaten a burger in years because I refuse to spend that much money on lunch. And don't get me started on the cost of Starbucks . . .
 
Angela, I have to disagree with you. Fast food is not cheaper than homemade food, it's far more expensive. What it is, is convenient and, because the high fat and starch content, it's tasty. I haven't eaten a burger in years because I refuse to spend that much money on lunch. And don't get me started on the cost of Starbucks . . .

You're right. Some of it is expensive. Someone would be much better off economically if they brought a sandwich and a piece of fruit from home. It doesn't need to be said that unless the sandwich is a BLT, they're better off in terms of nutrition, too.

Still, what I used to see some people do is use coupons, or order the "specials". You know what I mean. Kentucky Fried Chicken offers them all the time, and so do the Burger places.

Or, there are people who instead of roasting a chicken and making some boiled potatoes and string beans will order a pizza.

I have nothing against pizza once in a while, God knows, but what they're ordering is processed junk.

The cost might be the same, or close to it, but it's so much healthier to cook in most situations.

Trouble is that a lot of people have forgotten how.

I once went to a meeting a woman's house where everyone was bringing a dish. When I got there I asked her if I could use the oven to warm it up. She told me to go ahead, but she'd never even turned it on so I was on my own.

No exaggeration: this woman had a 60-100,000 dollar kitchen, three growing children, and had never turned on the oven.

So, it's not just lower income people who don't cook and rely on take out.

I definitely hear you about Starbucks. One of my epic, and I mean EPIC battles with my daughter was over Starbucks. I absolutely was NOT going to pay for one or two drinks a day for her. If she wanted to "fit in" with her friends, as she told me, she could just get a part time job to pay for it.
 
My income is way above median/average and i either order out or rely on my mother to bring food to my apartment (my father cooks for everyone including myself). I rarely use my stove and I'll be happy to sell it at some point
 
Cold weather is not going to select for fat anymore because most Americans have central heating, proper clothing, and don't do manual labor outside in the cold. I was talking about thousands and thousands of years of evolution acting on which alleles will be present in which genomes.

The coasts of Florida, to some extent, but primarily the southern counties like Miami, Palm Beach, Naples, parts of Sarasota County, have high concentrations of Jews and Italians, nary a WASP to be found. Trust me, I see the names every time I take the elevator, and in the local paper. :) The WASPS populate the Northwest and the Panhandle, and even the interior to some degree. In California, the interior is largely populated by people who migrated there from the Midwest, many after it became a virtual "dustbowl". They're farmers, and as is usual with farmers, more traditional in their habits as well as attitudes. Then there are the Hispanics, whom, it seems to me, depending on the proportion of non-European ancestry, have more or fewer problems with obesity. They confound the statistics as well, no matter whether they are conservative Catholics or Evangelicals. The Amerindians have a huge problem with the modern high starch diets, from what I can see, whether or not they're religious.

In this vein, Catholics are a mixed bag. They are more observant than mainstream Protestants, less so than fundamentalists to my knowledge, but I don't know any Catholics who don't believe in evolution, for example, no matter their level of observance, and that includes daily communicants. Yet, a Catholic in New York is going to have different standards about food and obesity than part Amerindian/part French Canadian Catholics in the upper midwest.

There are just too many confounding variables to single out religiosity. Plus, there's nothing in nutrition information which is contrary to conservative, fundamentalist religious beliefs.

I actually know some fundamentalists, some "born" that way, and some who have converted (in my husband's family), and they know very well the effects of a high fat/sugar diet combined with a more sedentary lifestyle. They just choose to ignore it. Interestingly, if they belong to very strict sects, they do give up cigarettes and alcohol.

I totally agree with you, definitely, here in Milan (Northern Italy) where i live, i know many highly religious catholics, usually the only fat and big bellied ones i can think of always happen to be southerners (Calabrians, Apulians, Sicilians) that are renown for eating a lot and literally worshiping high food intake (in terms of quantities), whereas northerners, being a bit taller due to genetic influence from nordic countries (Lumbardy especially with Lumbard/Scandinavian influence) and having a far lighter diet, are hardly obese, yet most catholics i know are actually from the North, and not obese.

Same thing i observe for Amerindians (many Peruvians here) and Salvadorians, i even knew a couple of strictly Evangelical Peruvians, 2 brothers, who went to my same school back in the day, 1 was skinny the other was a ultra fat, clearly it mainly got to do with genes, diet and height
 
I reckon income and education will play an important role (the 2 are also highly correlated) - if average incomes and educational opportunities are lower in the southern states (where obesity rates are higher), obesity will tend to be higher given the particular effort you need to invest to understand all the information pertaining to proper food choices (understanding the role of macro and micro nutrients and our physiological requirements for good health outcomes and avoidance of morbidity related to obesity etc..). You see similar patterns of obesity and income/education in other advanced economies (Australia, UK, western Europe etc) where religious faith is less important in peoples' lives than it seems to be in many parts of the US. But it's a stimulating line of investigation!
 
I've been fat all my life, even the earliest pictures of me show that! Growing up I weighed 1st (14lbs/8.3kg) for each year of my life up to my late teens, topping out at 19st (266lbs/120kg) before going up another 2st (28lbs/13kg) in my 40's and 50's.

My folks weren't overtly religious by any means but felt it their duty to put 'good food' on the table that I was obliged to eat - a non-empty plate was not permitted! Woe betide the wasting of any food! And boy, was that lesson well and truly hard wired into my brain! I was born and raised in 1950's north Yorkshire, not renowned for its healthy diet.

I'm now 68 and have changed my diet - not gone on a diet, but changed the way I eat. The triggers were prior to an elbow operation, discovering I was close to 18st7lbs again, and the new motorcycle gear I'd just bought wouldn't fit!

So, by cutting out alcohol, biscuits, sweets and sugar and having half the size of portion I was used to, this morning I weighed in at 13st9lbs (191lbs/87kg) and all my gear fits!!

So, am I genetically pre-disposed to being over weight? Was it my upbringing, to eat all that was put in front of me? Was it just the food I was eating (and the booze I was drinking)? Maybe my lifestyle?
 
I was a man of little faith. After a man who claims to have great faith in God took over the government of my country I finally managed to admit that I am an atheist, 'thank God'. But my weight, which fluctuated between 85Kg and 88Kg when I still had doubts about my religiosity, started to fluctuate between 89Kg and 92Kg. But it's a matter of lifestyle. I continue to eat as much as I used to, but physical activity has drastically reduced over the past six months. Today I resumed physical preparation with a personal trainer who will assist me twice a week to see if I can stop the fattening process and, if possible, reverse it.
 
I totally agree with you, definitely, here in Milan (Northern Italy) where i live, i know many highly religious catholics, usually the only fat and big bellied ones i can think of always happen to be southerners (Calabrians, Apulians, Sicilians) that are renown for eating a lot and literally worshiping high food intake (in terms of quantities), whereas northerners, being a bit taller due to genetic influence from nordic countries (Lumbardy especially with Lumbard/Scandinavian influence) and having a far lighter diet, are hardly obese, yet most catholics i know are actually from the North, and not obese.

Same thing i observe for Amerindians (many Peruvians here) and Salvadorians, i even knew a couple of strictly Evangelical Peruvians, 2 brothers, who went to my same school back in the day, 1 was skinny the other was a ultra fat, clearly it mainly got to do with genes, diet and height

I can't believe I let this nonsense pass when it was posted.

Obviously, you're not Italian and you know nothing about Italy.

The richest, most fattening cuisine in Italy is that of Emilia Romagna, and the older people have the portly bodies to prove it.

If Italians are, if not the thinnest, among the thinnest in Europe in childhood and up to late middle age, it has to do with a combination of genetics and self respect in terms of appearance. "Bello/bella" may be one of the most used words in the Italian language and is everyone's goal. Making a "bella figura" is also the goal. If you're fat you're not the former and don't make the latter. It has nothing to do with religion.

My personal opinion is that the two most important factors in the U.S. are genetics and diet. The "fattest" parts of the country are those with the most English/German/Black ancestry. Areas with high percentages of Mexicans and Amerindians also skew heavier. With Hispanics I think a lot depends on the amount of Amerindian ancestry. Indigenous Americans do not do at all well with the "European" or "West Eurasian" diet. It's all compounded because those cuisines are very animal fat and sugar heavy and produce fat in those that consume them. That translates to the south, the midwest, and certain parts of California and the southwest. You can see it in any county by county map.

Also, see my post number 10 and the comment that Americans used to be much more religious, and much less fat. It's genes, diet, and activity level.


obesity_by_county_large.png
 

This thread has been viewed 12720 times.

Back
Top