The risk of suffering from obesity is as diverse as Latinos, according to a study
The labels are misleading, especially when it comes to health. Does a Puerto Rican have the same risk of being obese as a Dominican?
More than 32% of New Yorkers suffer from obesity, one of the great epidemics of the 21st century that is very much cultural — our nutritional habits in an increasingly fast-moving society where a fruit salad is much more expensive than a pizza — but also addresses genetic issues often forgotten by those who insist on blaming obese people for their obesity.
As you search statistics, you'll read headlines like: "Nearly Half of U.S. Hispanics are Obese." Labels and generalizations outside and within the health field have become established, never better, as our daily bread.
But a recent study presented this week at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) throws an important light on this "weighty " data: It is not the same to be Panamanian than to have Colombian roots, or to be Chicano than be the son of Ecuadorians, not even close, and especially regarding health and the tendency to gain weight.
The research was conducted on 8,000 Latinos living in New York City that took into account their ethnic origin and concluded that Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are much more likely to be obese than Dominicans, Ecuadorians and Colombians.
"Our study of a large and diverse sample of Latinos living in New York City reveals that there is a dramatic variation in the prevalence of obesity by country of origin. This suggests that Latinos are not a monolithic group and that standardized treatment of all Latinos may hide unique risks among specific groups," says author Carlos Devia, a doctoral candidate at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health Policy.
However, Devia adds, "despite group differences, all Latino groups have high levels of obesity and deserve renewed effort and innovative strategies tailored to each group's specific context and culture to prevent and reduce obesity."
While most research on obesity in the United States claims that Latinos as a group are being dangerously pushed into this disease — almost half of the nation's Hispanic women and men are obese, according to the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — many of these studies have focused primarily on Mexican Americans, or have failed to analyze differences among ethnic subgroups.
However, any treatment to control and address obesity should be tailored to the genetic and cultural particularities of individuals, the researcher concludes.
To feed into this study, scientists analyzed data from the New York City Community Health Survey from 2013 to 2017 on 7,929 adults to compare the prevalence of obesity (BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher) and risk factors among the largest Latino populations (i.e., Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, and Colombians).
The cross-sectional telephone survey features an annual sample of approximately 10,000 adults age 18 and older randomly selected from the five districts of New York City.