BOSTON -- Overweight black Americans are two to three times more likely than heavy white Americans to say they are of average weight even after being diagnosed as overweight or obese by their doctors, according to a study led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers.
Weight "misperception" was most common among black men and women, and also was found among Hispanic men (but not women) compared to their white counterparts. The findings, which appear in the current online issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, are significant as excess body weight is a known risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, many forms of cancer, and premature death.
Growing concern over the national obesity epidemic in recent years apparently has not significantly increased overweight blacks recognition of their excess pounds, said Gary G. Bennett, PhD, of Dana-Farbers Center for Community-Based Research and Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, lead author of the study.
The report by Bennett and Kathleen Y. Wolin, ScD of Northwestern University is based on an analysis of data collected in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES), a government-sponsored research study begun in the 1960s. It includes both interviews and physical examinations carried out by mobile units across the country.
Analyses of NHANES data collected in 1988-98 and 2001-02 show that the prevalence of misperception actually has increased among blacks. "During this period weve seen rapid gains in obesity," said Bennett. "We think its a considerable problem that this is still not resonating among blacks and other minorities," he added.
Although the prevalence of overweight and obesity is even higher among blacks (estimated at over 75 percent) than the national average, Bennett said less pressure exists in the black community for people to lose weight through diet and exercise because of a cultural a
Contact: Janet Haley Dubow
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute