Obesity in Black American Women

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Laurie Addoms
Instructor Otero
English 200 Sophomore Seminar
13EW3
Essay Final
18 February 2013

Culture, Biology and Lifestyle Cause Forty Nine Percent of Black American Women to be Obese Abstract. Obesity is a major factor in health today. Certain ethnic groups and genders suffer from obesity more than others. Around 49% of all Black American women are classified obese today. There are many reasons for this. But the three the Black American women are susceptible to are culture, lifestyle and biology. Forty nine percent of Black American women are obese. This is an over representation compared to 38% of Latina women and 33% of non-Hispanic white women. (Phelan, Johnson, Wesley). Many factors determine a person’s weight and health status. Economics, lifestyle, diet, culture, biology and society all affect a person’s body size and composition. Culture, biology and lifestyle have the largest impact on why Black American women are obese. Health, economic and societal implications of obesity are overwhelming and affect every person in this country. The medical community defines obesity as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is simply a comparison of weight to height. The actual formula is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. A BMI of greater than 25 but less than 30 is considered overweight and a BMI of greater than 40 is considered morbidly obese. BMI is a comparison of weight to height, not fat to height. BMI is a useful tool for most of the population, but does not work well for heavily muscled people, such as body builders. Fat is damaging to health. Muscle is not.

The general population knows that obesity causes diabetes and heart problems. But obesity is much more severe than that. Obesity causes health problems that many find eye opening. Obesity causes hardening of the arteries, increased cholesterol and cardiac failure. In addition to damaging the heart and arteries obesity causes cancer. Twenty percent of all cancer related deaths in women are attributed to obesity (Dixon). Fifty percent of all Type II diabetes patients are obese. (Dixon). Obesity is associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease (Kogiso, Moriyoshi and Nagahara).

Obesity causes many more not so well known, but still very concerning health issues. Thirty one percent of all arthritis patients are obese. (Dixon). Sixty three percent of women who suffer from osteoarthritis are obese (Dixon). Obese women show a 37% increased risk of depression (Stunkard). Obesity can cause infertility and pregnancy complications (Phelan, Edelman). It even can reduce the effectiveness of birth control. Obese people are three times more apt to suffer from sleep apnea (Visscher, Seidell).

And for the real shocker, 300,000 deaths per year in the United States alone are attributed to obesity! Obesity is only second to smoking in preventable deaths per year in the US. (Visscher, Seidell). The reasons nearly half of all Black women in the US are obese are complex and many. We can point our finger at economics, lifestyle, society, biology, diet, culture. Culture, lifestyle and biology are the primary reasons 49% of Black women in the US are obese. Studies have shown that culture can have a profound effect on body size. Several studies have found that the Black American population has a preference for larger body size (Johnson). Portia Johnson, in her article, Scholarly Perspectives on Obesity in Black American Women, references a 2002 study that shows that African American men prefer African American women with a larger body size. The same author also cites a 2006 study that shows that African American women “describe a model of health that speaks to the Black women's cultural belief that a larger body size is ideal” (Johnson).

African women also have a preference for larger bodies. A 2006 study on ethnic Zulus, Zulu migrants to London, and Anglo Londoners show a...
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