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Eating Alone Is Bad for Your Waistline, Particularly for Guys

Dining solo can be hazardous for your health, especially if you’re a guy. A new study maintains that men who eat most of their meals alone have a much greater risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome — putting them at greater risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

The study, published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, examined the eating habits of 7,725 South Korean adults, specifically asking them how often they dined with or without company. Researchers then looked at health data, adjusting for factors ranging from age to exercise habits. Overall, they were interested to see how the social trend of smaller households and people living alone impacted health.

What they discovered is certainly startling. Men who ate alone at least twice a day were at a 45 percent increased risk of being obese and a 64 percent increased risk of having metabolic syndrome — which is defined as a group of three or more undesirable conditions: high blood pressure, elevated blood fat levels, insulin resistance, obesity in your abdominal region, abnormally high levels of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 or fibrinogen in your blood or unusually high levels of C-reactive protein — than those who dined in the company of others. These solo diners were more likely to be single, live alone and skip meals.

But here’s where the study got really interesting: Dining alone had much more of a negative impact on men than women. Women who noshed without others only had a 29 percent greater risk of having metabolic syndrome — and after researchers adjusted for income and lifestyle factors the increased risk wasn’t even significant. So, yeah, loneliness impacts a guy’s metabolism much more than a woman’s for some reason that researchers weren’t able to explain.

An alternate study conducted by Queensland University of Technology may shed some light on the reason, however. It came to the conclusion that people who eat alone are less likely to have healthy diets. This may help explain why solo diners in general are at a greater risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome, but not why the act of eating alone impacts the health of a man so much more negatively than a woman.

In general, whether you are a guy or gal, relationships with other people can impact your health in more ways than you might guess. A recent review of four long-term studies concluded that having a fulfilling social life is important when it comes to physical health. In fact, researchers found a direct correlation between the number of social connections a person had and his or her health.

The bottom line is that social interactions have a huge impact on your health. While plopping down in front of the television every once in a while and dining in your own company can be a relaxing and much-needed break, this study is a reminder that sharing meals with others can directly benefit your health, especially if you are a guy.

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised by the findings of this study? Why do you think eating alone has a much more negative health impact on a man than a woman? How often do you eat alone?