Mass attendant

The staff of Gilbert Magazine, a magazine about the life, the views, and the influence of G. K. Chesterton, compile a regular “News with Views” section, and this is the top of their current list:

The latest study to catch our eye has connected obesity, not with the modern diet, but with church-going. The study, done through the Northwestern University School of Medicine, concluded that people who attend church services at least weekly are fifty percent more likely to become obese by the time they reach middle age than those who are not so regular or don’t attend at all. The study did not go so far as to develop an explanation, it just noted the statistical correlation.

As no one here surely needs to be reminded, correlation does not equal causation.

A couple of off-the-cuff explanations offered by researchers:

One may simply be that religious gatherings often may center around eating traditional, high-calorie comfort foods, said Matthew Feinstein, the study’s lead investigator and a fourth-year student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Or perhaps, young adults with a propensity toward weight problems find more acceptance and less judgment in church groups. Maybe religious faith gives some sort of physiological high similar to physical exercise, but without the burn off of calories. Or maybe, as Purdue University sociologist Ken Ferraro has suggested with his previous work, “churches are a feeding ground for gluttony and obesity.”

But Feinstein added the following:

Previous research has demonstrated that “religious people tend to live longer, smoke less, and have better mental health, and our study does nothing to challenge that.”

The Gilbert staff respond:

Well, our guy was a regular church goer, and he was kind of heavy. But he was definitely a smoker. He scores on the mental health issue though, in part because he wasn’t obsessed with trying to live longer than other folks.

Amen to that.

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