CBS Local — A new study is giving people another reason to share their next meal with a friend, besides the obvious social benefits. According to research by Dongguk University Ilsan Hospital in South Korea, eating alone can significantly raise a person’s chances of becoming obese.

Researchers in Seoul found that people who ate their meals alone were at risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Men in particular were found to have a 45 percent higher risk of suffering from obesity by eating by themselves. The results, published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, added that men also had a 64 percent chance of being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

The research team looked at over 7,700 men and women who reported they regularly ate their meals alone. The study was aimed at examining the relationship between loneliness and health. “Our results indicate that eating alone may be a potential risk factor for MetS (metabolic syndrome),” researchers wrote.

Metabolic syndrome is the combination of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. The condition has been linked to development of other serious health problems such heart disease, stroke, and blood disorders.

While women were reportedly less affected by eating alone, they were found to still have a 29 percent increased chance of developing metabolic syndrome from eating alone. The most at risk were found to either be single, live alone, or regularly skipped meals during the day.

The Korean study adds to previous research about the negative health effects associated with social isolation. A recent report from AARP estimated that 43 million Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.

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