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Obese Fellow Diners can Make You Binge on Unhealthy Food

Update Date: Oct 03, 2014 02:48 PM EDT

Dining with overweight people may force you to eat more unhealthy food, new research has shown.

According to researchers from Southern Illinois University, an obese individual at the table can influence others to discard their diet concerns and indulge in unhealthy consumption. Though a person's influence on others while eating is well recognized, this research has empirically shown why one must make a pre-determined choice for food before dining with an obese person, Business Standard reported.

To prove their hypothesis, researchers selected 82 undergraduates as test subjects. An actress was then selected to influence the eating of test subjects. According to Financial Express, the actress would eat with each of the students either wearing a 50 pound prosthesis that would make her appear obese, or without the prosthesis. Spaghetti and salad would be served at the table.

The researchers created four possible scenarios before experimenting. The actress wearing the prosthesis or without it, would either eat healthy (more salad and less spaghetti) or unhealthy (less salad and more spaghetti).

The experiment showed that students who dined with the actress when wearing the prosthesis served themselves 31.6 percent more portions of spaghetti whether she ate healthy or unhealthy. Surprisingly when the actress ate healthy, the students ate unhealthy, consuming 41.6 percent less salad.  

"This finding emphasizes the importance of pre-committing to meal choices before entering the restaurant. If you go into the restaurant knowing what you will order you're less likely to be negatively influenced by all of the things that nudge you to eat more," said lead author Mitsuru Shimizu, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

The study shows that the body type of the dining partner may affect food choices of individuals and may distance them from their health goals by forcing consumption of large portions of unhealthy food and small portions of healthy foods.  

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