The "second-hand obesity" study published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine is drawing criticism worldwide. New York Times columnist Gail Collins not only doubts the validity of the study, but goes as far as to question the reputation of any medical journal that would publish such a report: "There was a time when the New England Journal of Medicine did not come up that often in water-cooler conversation, but pretty soon it’s going to be all you need to read."
Once the researchers finished running calculations, it’s difficult to tell if they stopped and considered the real world consequences of their kooky conclusion. But Collins did:
If this model works, avoiding weight-gain contagion is pretty hopeless anyway. The network of fat-influencing relationships are so dense, Dr. Christakis said in a phone interview, that in the end "your weight status might depend on the weight difference of your sister’s brother’s friend."
Down under in the Newcastle Herald, Australian columnist Jeff Corbett aimed his criticisms a little further below the ever-expanding belt:
It was the outcry against the once-ridiculous notion of passive smoking that has put smokers out in the cold, so perhaps the no-longer-ridiculous notion of passive obesity can do the same for fatties.
Imagine, clusters of butterballs outside office blocks hoeing into sausage rolls. And tubs of ice-cream carrying graphic photos of their most gruesome folds.
And signs everywhere: "We respect your right to be fat and appreciate your decision not to be fat in here."