Hispanics and Obesity
What is the link between Hispanics and obesity? Are people of Hispanic origin more prone to obesity than others?
Respected Hispanic trend watcher
Jaun G Tornoe
feels there is enough anecdotal and scientific data supporting the link between Hispanics and obesity to raise warning flags…
One of the culprits he identifies is the huge choice of cheap, fast food and sugary drinks on offer to newly arrived Latino immigrants, many of whom come from extremely deprived backgrounds…
Fast Food Warning From a Friend
In a recent blog, Tornoe recounts how, as a new immigrant himself, a friend had warned him of this danger...
"(He) told me right after I moved into the U.S. to be careful with the junk food... He noticed that many new immigrants went crazy with the excessive food offerings this country offers.
"If they are not careful, they will watch their waistline be a victim of over choice in just a couple of months."
Victims of Good Intentions
Second and third generation Hispanic families are also at risk. Ironically, they're largely victims of their parents' good intentions.
"Generally speaking, back in Latin America, a chubby baby or little kid is the obvious sign of healthiness (compared with the unfortunate scars malnutrition leaves on many persons South of the Border)," writes Torno.
"What better way for parents to feel like they are doing a good job taking care of their offspring, than to show all those around them their chubby kids… then the bad eating habits just take control over the little kid’s life and all the adversities obesity brings begin to show up in the kid’s life."
The "Bigger is Better" Myth
This point is reinforced by an article in another authoritative source of Hispanic news,
"... cultural and economic barriers... include the perceptions that being plump is healthy and that assimilating means eating fast food, which is high in fat, calories and quantity. In addition, exercise must be integrated into the Latino communities among both boys and girls.
“It doesn’t do to tell a mother her chubby baby isn’t healthy and to cut the fat early for a lifetime of health.
"We have to change the perceptions of a community where the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are overweight and don’t consider that a problem...
"We need to help the community see that bigger isn’t necessarily better,” says the article.
Hispanics Not Alone
It's worth mentioning that Hispanics are not alone in this. In my home country, South Africa, many of my countrymen and women struggle with obesity and its associated ills, like diabetes and heart disease.
The chief culprit is the readily available processed food and the rapid spread of fast food outlets. The past decade has brought long-awaited political freedom and increasing prosperity. The flipside is a growing obesity problem.
In people for whom poverty and near starvation still loom large, combating the "bigger is better" myth is extremely difficult.
Research into Hispanics and Obesity links
There have also been several academic studies of
Hispanics and obesity. A survey
conducted in May 2004 for Kellogg by La Opinión/El Diario de la Prensa Market Research Center, shows Latino families not exercising at recommended levels resulting in rising obesity rates among them.
Hispanics and obesity links are also under the spotlight in a
five-year study at the University of Texas at El Paso. UTEP has received a $4.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study and reduce health disparities among Hispanics.
The five-year grant will establish the Center for the Advancement of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research at UTEP. The grant will also help recruit and train faculty and will be used to disseminate research results to the community.
For more on Hispanics and obesity and other Latino trends read Jaun's blog
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