Hispanic children in US at greater risk for obesity than other ethnic/racial groups

Culturally appropriate nutritional intervention needed, according to nutrition experts

St. Louis, MO, 1 June 2009 – The prevalence of overweight in the US population is among the highest in Mexican-American children and adolescents. In a study of 1,030 Hispanic children between the ages of 4 and 19, published in the June 2009 issue of theJournal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine found less than optimal diets in both overweight and non-overweight participants.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), in 2005-2006 the prevalence of overweight among children (2-19 years) from all ethnic/racial groups was 15.5%. For Mexican-American males and females (2-19 years) the prevalence was 23.2% and 18.5%, respectively. Although the US environment encourages a sedentary lifestyle and excess food intake, the Hispanic population is burdened with additional risk factors for childhood obesity including parental obesity, low socioeconomic status (SES), recent immigration, acculturation to US diet and lifestyle, and limited health insurance coverage.

The VIVA LA FAMILIA Study was designed to identify genetic and environmental factors contributing to childhood obesity in the Hispanic population. It provided the novel opportunity to assess the diet of a large cohort of Hispanic children from low-SES families at high risk for obesity (1,030 children from 319 families in Houston, Texas). On average, 91% of parents were overweight or obese and parental income and education levels were low. Food insecurity was reported by 49% of households.

Writing in the article, Nancy F. Butte, PhD, Professor, USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, states, “The diets of these low-SES Hispanic children were adequate in most essential nutrients, but suboptimal for the promotion of long-term health. Diet quality did not satisfy US dietary guidelines for fat, cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, fiber, added sugar, and sodium. Although energy intake was higher in overweight children, food sources, diet quality, and macro- and micronutrient composition were similar between non-overweight and overweight siblings...Knowledge of the dietary intake of children from low-SES Hispanic families at high risk for obesity will provide a basis on which to build nutritional interventions and policy that are appropriately tailored to population sub-groups.”

In a commentary published in the same issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, PhD, Professor of Nutritional Sciences & Public Health, Director, NIH EXPORT Center for Eliminating, Health Disparities among Latinos (CEHDL), University of Connecticut, Storrs, asks whether the process of acculturation into “mainstream” US society is having negative effects on Hispanics. Citing numerous studies, he explores many of the factors that both support and contradict the assimilation argument, and concludes that while acculturation is likely a negative influence, further study is warranted. He writes, “However, we still need to elucidate the mechanisms and the extent to which acculturation to the USA ‘mainstream’ culture per se explain deterioration in dietary quality, and increased risks for obesity and associated chronic diseases among Latinos. Filling in this gap in knowledge is essential for developing culturally appropriate and behavioral change based interventions targeting Latinos with different levels of acculturation.”

The article is “Nutrient adequacy and diet quality in non-overweight and overweight Hispanic children of low socioeconomic status - the VIVA LA FAMILIA Study” by Theresa A. Wilson, MS, RD, Anne L. Adolph, BS, and Nancy F. Butte, PhD. The commentary is “Dietary quality among Latinos: Is acculturation making us sick?” by Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, PhD. Both appear in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 6 (June 2009) published by Elsevier.


# # #

Full text of the article and commentary featured above is available upon request. Contact Lynelle Korte at 314-453-4841 orjadamedia@elsevier.com to obtain a copy. Journalists wishing to interview Dr. Butte or her co-authors may contact Dipali Pathak, Media Relations Specialist, Baylor College of Medicine, via email at pathak@bcm.edu or phone at 713-798-6826. Journalists wishing to interview Professor Pérez-Escamilla may contact him directly at rafael.perez-escamilla@uconn.edu or at 860-805-2502.

About the Journal of the American Dietetic Association
The official journal of the American Dietetic Association the Journal of the American Dietetic Association is the premier source for the practice and science of food, nutrition and dietetics. The monthly, peer-reviewed journal presents original articles prepared by scholars and practitioners and is the most widely read professional publication in the field. The Journal focuses on advancing professional knowledge across the range of research and practice issues such as: nutritional science, medical nutrition therapy, public health nutrition, food science and biotechnology, foodservice systems, leadership and management and dietetics education.

About the American Dietetic Association
The American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence, and ClinicalKey — and publishes nearly 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world leading provider of professional information solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal and Risk and Business sectors, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Media Contact:
Lynelle Korte
Elsevier
+1 314 453 4841
jadamedia@elsevier.com