Neurotheology of obesity

A 1998 Purdue Univeristy study found a statistically significant correlation between obesity and religiosity. Sort of confirms what we suspected. Non-Christian believers, including Buddhists, were the least overweight, however.

The author of this study inexplicably fails to offer any hypotheses for this phenomenon, other than to mention that churches fail to teach restraint, and that they may be overly accepting of fatties.

It may or may not be relevant that the estimates of the heritability of a tendency toward obesity range around the 0.5 mark, remarkably close to the estimates for the heritability of religiosity.

Perhaps the same semi-addictive tendencies that lie behind some cases of obesity may also be work in cases of religiosity.

Or, research proves that people eat more when they dine with others while religious behavior has been shown to be related to socialization drives. So perhaps religious people eat more often with other people, getting fat in the process.

Such correlates of religiosity may be easier to deal with than with religiosity itself, and as such are attractive routes of inquiry, since such correlations may be based on common underlying neurological mechanisms.

Reference: Nature Neuroscience focus on neurobiology of obesity.

One Response to “Neurotheology of obesity”

  1. winsailor Says:

    I once spent some time chatting with a true food worshipper. The person was obese, though not morbidly so. It was quite amazing to see the body language and verbal expression of unabashed adoration.

    It struck me as very similar to other addictive behavior I’ve observed, like the starry eyes of the born-again as they relate how they got hooked (i.e., ‘saved’), and how it was just a really small step at that point to become addicted to ‘pushing’ the stuff. I think addictions are addictions, whether it’s drug-based, fantasy-based, or very specifically taste-bud based.

    An interesting statistical study would be the percentage of the faithful of various religions that have one or more other addictions compared to the general population. It would be especially interesting to determine if there’s a statistically significant favorite.

    But perhaps the most important question to chew upon, however, is whether or not you can get into heaven with an addiction to anything other than the faith-based ones.

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