You are more likely to put on weight when in a relationship than if you are single, scientists have claimed. Picture: Pexels

There may be a simple reason why love handles got their name – you are more likely to put on weight when in a relationship than if you are single, scientists have claimed.

A study of more than 15,000 people over nine years has found those in couples are a fifth less likely to be a normal weight than single, widowed and divorced people.

While the researchers did find that couples tend to eat more fruit and vegetables, and are less likely to smoke and drink alcohol to excess, there are other factors which could be causing them to pile on the pounds.

Their report states: ‘Marriage (or de-facto relationships) comes with spousal obligations such as regular family meals. While they may include more healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and less fast food, people often consume larger portion sizes and more calories in the company of others than they do alone, resulting in increased energy intake.’

Researchers at Central Queensland University in Australia, who conducted the study, also suggest that married people gain weight because they no longer need to remain thin to attract a mate.

Lead author Dr Stephanie Schoeppe told New Scientist magazine: ‘When couples don’t need to look attractive and slim to attract a partner, they may feel more comfortable in eating more, or eating more foods high in fat and sugar.

‘When couples have children in the household, they tend to eat their leftovers or snacks.’

The study found that both couples and single people were likely to meet recommendations for exercise and watch a similar amount of television. Data comparing the body mass index (BMI) of couples and singletons was taken from surveys conducted between 2005 and 2014.

Previous research has found couples tend to become overweight, lazy and sedentary two years into a relationship.

Daily Mail