Obesity Affects Minorities More Quickly than Whites, New Study Shows
African-American and Hispanic women in their 20s and early 30s become obese faster than white women, and Hispanic men in the same age group become obese faster than white and African-American men, according to a study published in today's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, USA Today reports. In the study, researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill analyzed the body mass index of 9,179 individuals in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth -- ages 17 to 24 when the study began -- from 1981 to 1998. The study found:
- African-American women became obese 2.1 times faster than white women, and Hispanic women became obese 1.5 times faster than white women.
- Hispanic men became obese 2.5 times faster than white men.
- African-American men and white men became obese at the same rate until age 28, when African-American men became obese 2.2 times faster.
Dr. Kathleen McTigue, the study's lead author, said, "From this [study] we can't tell what's driving these ethnic-based differences in weight gain, but it's clearly an important question that needs to be looked at more closely." Kelly Brownell, an obesity researcher at Yale University, said the ethnic-based differences in obesity rates could result from a difference in "biological vulnerability" or a difference in environment; some people may live in areas with a high "exposure to bad foods like junk food and fast food" (Hellmich, USA Today, 6/18).
In addition, 26% of men and 28% of women in the study became obese by age 35, and more than 80% of those men and women became "dangerously heavy" after ages 20 to 22. "Our findings suggest that more [obesity] focus needs to be placed on the young-adult period, with particular emphasis on selected subpopulations," McTigue said (Bowman, Scripps Howard News Service/Nando Times, 6/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.