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Religious Activities Could Promote Obesity

th a higher number of Baptists.

But "being religious" can produce different attitudes and behaviors, so Ferraro wanted to know more about these groups' characteristics and identify behaviors that were likely to lead to obesity. Unlike the first study, this one follows subjects over eight years to help explain why religion and obesity are related. For instance, he tested alternative explanations, such as the idea that overweight people seek religious consolation, but found no evidence for that proposition. The current study also differentiates between religious denominations and reaffirms that Baptists are more likely to be obese. Fundamentalist Protestants had the second highest rate of obesity in this sample.

"This cause could be from less healthy eating patterns in the South, home to many Baptists," Ferraro says. "But we controlled for residency and still Baptist women were more likely to be obese. This trend could be related to the strong emphasis for Baptists to avoid alcohol and tobacco, and, as a result, many of them indulge in overeating instead. More research is needed to learn how denominations view overeating and obesity."

Additional analysis also needs to focus on the religious practices and habits of women who use religious media resources, Ferraro says. One limitation of the study was that specific forms of media were not distinguished, so the researchers are not sure if this group is composed of people who only watch television, listen to religious radio programming or read religious materials. Watching television is already a known risk factor for obesity, he says.

"We do know that the electronic church is much more appealing to women," Ferraro says. "So, the next step is learning how this venue can help communicate the importance of healthy living to this target audience."

Churches can be wonderful resources to educate people about health issues, Ferraro says. Often churches are sites for he
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