"Lesbians had a significantly higher body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio than their sisters," say Stephanie A. Roberts, M.D., and colleagues. This pattern of extra abdominal weight is one element of the metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms that increase risk for cardiovascular disease.
Other risk factors, like smoking and exercise frequency, were similar in the two groups of women. Diet did not vary significantly between the lesbians and their sisters, except that the lesbians ate less red meat. Roberts suggests that attitudes about weight may partially explain the differences but also may complicate weight reduction efforts.
Roberts, a physician in private practice, and her colleagues from the School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, surveyed 324 lesbians living in California and an equal number of their heterosexual sisters closest in age. Their work reflects previous studies that show lesbians have a higher body mass index (a ratio of weight to height used to define overweight and obesity) and are less concerned about weight issues than heterosexual women.
In general, Roberts found that the lesbians surveyed were about a year older (49.7 years vs. 48.9 years), more educated (17.5 years vs. 15.4 years) and more likely to be employed fulltime (70 percent vs. 56 percent), compared to their sisters.
On average, neither group fell into the ideal weight range. Both lesbians and their sisters had body mass indexes over 25, a level that is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and severe chest pain.
The lesbians' waist circumference measurements and waist-to-hip ratios were near or above c
Contact: Stephanie Roberts
Center for the Advancement of Health