Higher Hispanic Obesity Rates Not Related To Environment, Study

FoodUSA, June 7, 2006

A new study has revealed that the higher obesity rates of Hispanic children are not connected to socioeconomic factors, findings that could add weight to the suggestion that this sector of the population responds differently to diet.

Published in this month’s issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the research found that around 26 percent of Hispanic children studied were obese by the age of three, compared to 16 percent of black children and 15 percent of white children.

The researchers, led by Robert Whitaker of Mathematica Policy Research, Princeton, New Jersey, examined around 2,500 children born in 75 US hospitals between 1998 and 2000. They looked at the families’ ethnic background, education level, income and access to food.

According to the researchers, the levels of socioeconomic status of the families studies were very similar between blacks and Hispanics, yet the latter group of three year-olds were at a 50 percent higher risk of obesity.

“By 36 months it’s clear that Hispanic kids are at a significantly higher risk of obesity than other children, and we don’t really know why. What is clear is that it doesn’t appear to be socio economic factors, so we have to start looking at other possibilities,” Whitaker told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

Indeed, it has long been suggested that Hispanics have a different genetic make-up, which means that they react differently to certain diets and are more prone to health conditions including obesity and diabetes.

“It is suspected that Hispanics are at an increased risk of obesity on a genetic basis, but no-one has as yet identified the genes that would be responsible for this. It is a scientific hypothesis but is yet to be proven,” said Whitaker.

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