Weight Perception And Weight Management Behaviours Across Ethnic Groups

The perception of excess weight, both as an aesthetic and as a health issue, varies considerably amongst racial/ethnic groups.

But how does this variation in weight perception affect actual weight management behaviours?

This question was addressed by R Dorsey and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, MD, USA, in a paper just published in Ethnicity and Disease.

To examine racial/ethnic differences in the relationship between weight perception and weight management behaviors among overweight and obese adults, the investigators examined a nationally representative sample of 11,319 non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black and Mexican American overweight and obese adults from the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Correct weight perception was positively associated with weight management behavior across all ethinic/racial groups.

However, there were interesting differences in reported weight management behaviours.

Thus, overweight non-Hispanic Blacks with a weight misperception were 30% less likely to have tried to lose weight or to have tried not to gain weight than overweight non-Hispanic Whites with a weight misperception.

Also, among individuals with obesity and a weight misperception, non-Hispanic Blacks were about half as likely to desire to weigh less compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

Thus, while individual with correct weight perception report similar weight concerns and behaviours, there are significant differences amongst those with weight misperceptions cross ethnic/racial groups.

In Canada, where the proportion of hispanic and blacks is far lower than in the US, it would be interesting to see how both weight perception and behaviours differ amongst South Asian and East Asian populations. Obviously, it would also be interesting to see how these issues are relevant to the aboriginal peoples of Canada.

Adelphi, MD

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Dorsey RR, Eberhardt MS, & Ogden CL (2010). Racial and ethnic differences in weight management behavior by weight perception status. Ethnicity & disease, 20 (3), 244-50 PMID: 20828097