English 200 Sophomore Seminar
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...
Bibliography: Brewis, Alexandra. Obesity Cultural and Biocultural Perspectives. New Brunswick. Rutgers University Press. (2011). Print.
Brewis’ book is a must read for anyone studying, researching or working in health, weight management or fitness. The author takes a look at obesity from an anthropologist’s standpoint. Where did obesity originate? How does if effect certain races/genders more than others? These are some of the questions answered. The author has lived in different cultures and worked with different ethnicities obtaining answers to some of the mysteries surrounding weight gain. She has uncovered reasons why obesity is prevalent in the United States and other countries. And discusses why some ethnicities are more vulnerable to weight gain after migrating to the United States or other developed nations. The author has studied the culture of the Pima Indians of both the US and Mexico and explains why obesity affects the US Pimas more than the Mexican Pimas. Brewis also explains why some ethnicities find larger body weigh acceptable and why some ethnicities have larger males than females and why they find this perfectly normal.
Biagioli, Brian. Advanced Concepts of Personal Training. National Council on Strength and Fitness. (2007). Print.
This book was by a medical doctor. This manual is applicable to anyone interested in learning more about physical fitness, nutrition, physiology, body composition and exercise mechanics. It is the National Council on Strength and Fitness’ guide for all their certified personal trainer candidates. The manual contains 540 pages with many illustrations explaining obesity, Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), Body Mass Index (BMI) and physiology. This manual includes chapters on special populations such as women, children and special needs individuals.
HBO The Weight of the Nation. HBO Documentary Films; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute of Health. Et al. Various actors/directors. (2007). DVD.
This is a four part documentary on obesity in America. Each part is approximately one hour long. The parts consist of consequences, choices, children in crisis and challenges. The films explore why the United States is facing an obesity crisis, and what we can do about it now. Various health experts narrate the films. Interviews are conducted with a host of citizens dealing with obesity right now. They tell in their own words the challenges they face. There is significant commentary and interview on ethnicities, females, citizens living in inner cities and the issues surrounding obesity and weight gain.
The Skinny on Obesity. Perf. Robert Lustig et al. UCTV Prime. 12 Apr. 2012. Web Video.
This video series plays on UCSF Prime TV online. Dr. Robert Lustig is endocrine expert at the UCSF Children’s Hospital. This is a seven part series that tackles the basics of the obesity epidemic such as sugar, hormones, fast food, childhood obesity, and endocrine system. Each part is about 15 minutes long. Only a basic understanding of health and physiology is needed to fully understand concepts presented.
Platkin, Charles. The Automatic Diet. New York. Penguin. 2005. Print.
This book discusses how to slowly improve your diet over time with small changes. Dr. Platkin holds a master of public health and is one of the nation’s leading public health advocates. He writes The Diet Detective, a syndicated article that appears in hundreds of newspapers throughout the country. His book takes the reader through small steps of diet and lifestyle changes that together create a whole new diet makeover making healthful eating simple and thus ‘automatic’.
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