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Obesity In African American Women Essay

5703 words - 23 pages

Restrictive eating disorders (i.e., anorexia, bulimia nervosa) are known to be associated with young females of an upper to upper-middle socioeconomic status and are thought to be rare in African American women. Recent studies, however, have called into question the generalizability of such findings. The majority of studies have drawn subjects from student or inpatient populations. Recent results suggest that the number of African American women who suffer from eating disorders, particularly bulimia, may be increasing. Regardless of this increase in restrictive eating disorders, significant concerns related to obesity and overweight in African American women have repeatedly emerged in the literature. For example, epidemiological studies of eating behaviors and weight concerns (e.g., obesity, binge eating) reveal that females, African Americans, and individuals in the middle and lower socioeconomic status percentiles tend to exhibit these problems at a higher rate (Abrams, Allen, & Gray, 1993; Langer, Warheit, & Zimmerman, 1991). Further, researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine interviewed 2,115 African American and White adults (aged 18-96 years) on weight and weight concerns as part of a health survey and found significant age, gender, race, and social class differences. They found that 46% of 306 African American women, 28% of 144 African American men, 18% of 905 White women, and 16% of 743 White men were overweight and discussed these findings in relation to cultural acceptance of overweight. That is, the significantly greater percentage of overweight African American women and men may, in part, be due to the greater acceptance of diverse body types in this culture rather than the idealization of thinness that is typical in the dominant White culture (Rand & Kuldau, 1990). Another study noted that obesity is a health problem for 30% of middle-aged White women and 60% of middle-aged African American women in the United States (Wing, 1993). Finally, Malina (1973) presented several studies reporting a greater incidence of obesity among adolescent African American girls and among lower socioeconomic groups.Defining Obesity and OverweightThe methods for classifying individuals as obese, overweight, or normal weight in the research have varied. This poses some difficulties in making comparative statements across studies. Much of the data relating health and obesity have been obtained and analyzed with reference to overweight, meaning a weight that deviates from some recommended standard for a particular height or a calculated body mass index (BMI). An individual may be overweight, however, yet not obese. This may be most evident in athletes who may exceed the standard normal weight for a given height due to increased muscle mass. Generally, overweight refers to a BMI (wt/ht) of 25 to 30 or a body weight between the upper limit of normal and 20% above that limit. Obesity refers to a BMI of 30 or greater or a body...

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