Let’s just get into it.
From The LA Times:
The study, which draws from a database of 1,148 adolescents, is the first to explore differences between white and black girls’ physical activity rates and their effect on weight. (Just under half — 538 — identified themselves as African American.) But it falls in line with research that finds black women oxidize fat more slowly in response to exercise, and that their resting metabolic rates are lower than those of white women.
Such racial differences “may predispose black girls to retaining fat accumulated during puberty,” wrote the authors, James White of Cardiff University and Russell Jago of the University of Bristol. “Our results suggest that prompting adolescent girls to be active may be important to preventing obesity but that using different approaches (e.g. emphasizing reductions in energy intake) may be necessary to prevent obesity in black girls.”
The study compared white and black girls’ physical activity and food intake as measured in three-day stretches where they wore a pedometer and kept track of what they ate. They also reported participation in physical activities through the year. Based on activity, each group was divided into upper and lower halves.
By BMI and two other obesity measures (a measure of body fat adopted by the International Obesity Task Force and a gauge of skin-fold thickness), the 12-year-old black girls in the top half of the physical activity continuum were only 15% less likely to be obese by age 14 than ones in the lower half.
For white girls, those in the upper half were 85% less likely to become obese over the next two years than were those in the bottom half. [source]
Although it’s still important to promote physical activity in all young people, according to the researchers that may not be enough to prevent black girls — who have a higher rate of obesity to begin with — from gaining weight.
“I think everyone would agree we need people to be active. It’s not sufficient on its own to prevent weight gain, but it’s really an important part of the equation,” said Alison Field, who studies weight in adolescents and women at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston.
Still, the new findings “would suggest that… what we’ve been recommending may not be the perfect fit for African Americans,” Field, who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.
One possibility is that along with other lifestyle changes, black girls need to get a lot more exercise than white girls to start making a difference in their obesity risk, she added.
But it’s unclear why that would be the case, and just how much physical activity they would need.
Field said the results are “sobering” given that black girls typically are less active to begin with and getting teen girls involved and engaged in new types of exercise is particularly challenging.
The findings come from a second analysis of data originally collected by the National Institutes of Health, which followed girls in Cincinnati, Berkeley, California and Rockville, Maryland starting when they were nine or ten years old in 1985.
For the new analysis, James White of Cardiff University and Russell Jago of the University of Bristol, both in the UK, used data on physical activity, eating habits, weight and height from when the girls were 12 and 14 years old.
Physical activity was measured over three days with a device called an accelerometer, which is kept in a pouch above the hip and calculates how much time the wearer spends walking, running or otherwise being active.
At age 14, close to 16 percent of the black girls qualified as obese, compared to just five percent of white girls.
The researchers found the most active white 12-year-olds were 85 percent less likely to be obese at the second reading than the least active. That held up when they took into account girls’ diets and how much time they spent sitting.
But for black girls, there was no clear link between physical activity at age 12 and obesity at 14.
The study, published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, included 1,148 girls, split roughly evenly between black and white adolescents. [source]
From Yo Momma’s House:
DUHHHHH Black girls ain’t supposed to be skinny no way! It’s in our geeeeeeenes to be this plump with this rump! Duhhhhh!
From New York Daily News:
When it comes to curbing obesity, exercise doesn’t have the same effect on African-American girls as white girls, a new study suggests.
According to research published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, black girls are less responsive to the benefits of physical activity.
Researchers studied the exercise levels and caloric intake of a group of 1,148 adolescent girls at age 12. Two years later, lower levels of obesity correlated with higher levels of exercise in white girls. Surprisingly, the same wasn’t true for black girls — those who reported frequent physical activity were just as likely to be obese two years later as ones who rarely exercised.
The study’s authors pointed to earlier research that helps explain why African-American girls might be at a disadvantage in the weight game, such as having lower metabolic rates and lower rates of fat oxidation than their white peers.
Other potential contributing factors are a higher daily caloric intake and more sedentary behaviors, like watching TV, the study says.
The authors note that “promoting activity would have less impact in this high-risk population.”
In other words, obesity campaigns directed at African-American girls should consider focusing less on exercise and more on controlling caloric intake.
“It’s not just physical activity,” Ginny Ehrlich, chief executive of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, told the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
“That’s particularly important for African-American girls.”
Ehrlich says she would be hesitant to share the findings with young black women because body image is “already a really sensitive subject.” [source]
The study is located here. Many brilliant minds can read and dissect this study at their own free will.
When I first saw this… I actually had on my new heart rate monitor… which means, I can safely say that my heart rate rose an obscene amount as I read this.
Um, I have questions.
Never mind the fact that self-reporting your caloric intake is notoriously inaccurate… let’s start with some basic things that we know to be true, here at BGG2WL, about… say, fitness. Did we take into account the body fat percentage of all of the girls involved in the study? A muscular body is a body that needs more calories to thrive – remember Michael Phelps 10,000-calorie-a-day-diet? that was partly to fuel his all-day activity, but also to fuel the fully muscular body he has! – and therefore can consume more calories without it resulting in fat gain. I see that the median (the middle number) of the girl’s body fat percentages were listed in the beginning, but not in the end? Was that taken into account?
Pardon me, as I skim the study.
Doesn’t look like it.
Since we’ve talked about the importance of muscle in burning calories, let’s talk about the kinds of activity the girls engaged in – did the activities promote accelerated muscle development? Like, say, strength training or cross fit or an actual sport? Or was it simply running? (Don’t get me wrong – running is extremely beneficial. It just doesn’t promote muscle in the same way we’re shooting for here.)
Were the girls already athletic before? Considering how the Black girls watched, on average, 20 hours more of television than the white girls, can I assume that maybe there’s some activity taking up that time?
Can we also wonder out loud about what commercials might be triggering what kinds of cravings in the girls who watch a ton of TV? I mean, that’s the point of a commercial, right? To make you want what is being advertised? If you’re watching 20 hours more of television than your counterparts… it’s safe to say that you’re being exposed to triggering content on a regular basis. Both groups of girls might be taking in the same amount of calories, but that TV might be affecting whether or not your calories consist of veggies or um… sugary “omg whole grain!!!” cereal.
Actually, let me come back to all of this.
Let’s look at the diet piece of the study:
Daily caloric intake was assessed using a food diary on 3 consecutive days (including 1 day on the weekend and 2 weekdays) concurrent with the recording of physical activity using the accelerometer. Girls were instructed to record all food and drink, the type of meal, and the time of intake. Completed food diaries were reviewed with the girls by certified dieticians, and supplementary information was sought to clarify incomplete responses. Default values from the Nutrition Coordinating Center at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) were used for missing information on food amounts, types, and preparation methods.24 Daily caloric intake was analyzed centrally using a nutrient data system developed by the University of Minnesota.
Did we break down and compare the nutrient break-downs of each girl’s diet? Did we break down the source of each calorie? The quality of each calorie? Does this study believe that 100 calories of twinkie are the same as 100 calories of carrots… or, even, 100 calories of chicken or 100 calories of avocado or 100 calories of chickpeas?
Because, um… they’re not. Two girls, one eating a diet where the majority of her calories come from protein and the other with a diet of predominately carbs, eating the exact same amount of calories with the exact same body fat percentage will develop completely different bodies.
And, since we’re talking about bodies, can we talk about puberty? These are 12 and 14 year old girls. If the girls are, in fact, extremely active…are they delaying puberty?
And since we’re talking about puberty and young girl’s bodies… can we talk about the reality that hormones, used in our food supply to make the mammals we eat/consume in some form grow larger at a faster rate, can have an affect on the people who eat it?* And, sure, you can always buy animal products and byproducts that are hormone-free, but can you afford it? Is it sold in your area? Do you even know that it exists?
This brings me to my final point: was the socio-economic status of each girl taken into consideration? No, and think about this point. If socio-economic status – the education, money, networked resources, free time, and connections that are available to the child in their household – wasn’t accounted for, then all of these issues become a far greater problem. It’s like comparing the children of millionaires to the children of the working poor:
- If you have enough money to be a stay-at-home parent, your daughters are far more likely to be involved in sports – often muscle building ones, at that – than if not. Not saying that it’s impossible, but the time that two working parents – or even a single working parent… how many of those girls come from single parent households with limited familial support? – have is limited in ways that a stay-at-home parent’s time is not. It’s something to account for.
- If you have a child in a sport, you likely have enough money to sustain the travel, the health care, the uniforms. You also are far more likely to have the time to cook your family’s meals. The amount of processed food is likely to be limited.
- If you have a higher socio-economic status, you likely live in a better neighborhood where you trust your neighbors to do things like pick little Keisha up from soccer practice. You also are more likely to have the car necessary to pick little Keisha (and a quarter of her team) up from soccer practice.
- If you have more money, you likely live in a better neighborhood with better stores, selling products of better quality. Since we’ve already determined that a) quality costs more money and b) money begets better businesses and opportunities altogether, it’s safe to say that if you live in an area with minimal money then you probably don’t have an organic produce market in your corner. It’s presumed that you cannot afford it.
- If you are educated, you most likely have a white collar job which allows you to sit on the Internet, read awesome blogs (ahem) and learn about how to better feed your children (and yourself.) This is why it has been said over and over, education matters in health. If you’re working a blue collar or any other color collar job that doesn’t allow you to spend time at your desk learning something not related to your job, then its likely that you wouldn’t even know that a protein-heavy diet is more sound. We all know that “twinkies are bad,” but do we ever get sound advice on what’s good? Just vegetables, huh? What if I’ve never had vegetables, don’t know how to cook them, and don’t have the money necessary to explore something new? I’m just sh-t outta luck, huh?
I’m not even going to keep going. Just know that the resources and opportunities that come with education (alumni networks? hello?) and money are a huge deal. This is why education has always been such an important component in success.
I’m really struggling with this. I worry about the kinds of conversations this kind of study – and the subsequent reporting that arises from it – creates in our communities. The reality is that this isn’t a “Black problem.” It’s a “lack of education” problem. It’s a “lack of access” problem. It’s a “lack of money” problem. And, unfortunately, it affects the Black community heavier than others. This isn’t a “Black problem.” It has nothing to do with Black women “rejecting” European standards of beauty. It has nothing to do with how Black women are “supposed” to look. It has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that if you aren’t getting quality food, you can’t build a quality body. And, as always, a quality body is a healthy body, regardless of whether that body is a size 4 or a size 14.
Instead of trying to determine whether or not Black bodies are so different – and, by understanding of the societal belief that skinny is better than fat, inferior…destined to be obese even though very few people of either race were obese a few decades ago – why not try to figure out why we keep fueling billions each year into the system that creates garbage food? Why not try to figure out how we can get our government to create incentives to those who invest in putting produce stores in poorer neighborhoods? Why not try to determine the success rate of programs that educate people – regardless of race – on how to use produce to their advantage? Encourage raw foods and varying sources of protein? Those kinds of studies aren’t salacious enough, right? I mean, this study came out six weeks ago and no one was all up in arms and writing long 2,000 word diatribes about successful weight loss, right?
(And, yes, that study is titled “Descriptive Study of Educated African American Women Successful at Weight-Loss Maintenance Through Lifestyle Changes.” Get into alllll of it… and help me figure out whether a) including the term “educated” was necessary and b) if the term educated is often used in the titles of studies that are predominately – or entirely – white.)
I’ve said, for a long time, that trying to make problems that are actually “poor problems” into “Black problems” means that major issues can go overlooked in this country, as a means of saying “let them deal with their problems.” News flash: “Black” is not interchangeable with “poor.” It means that we never have to address the fact that eating healthily is expensive to the poor, who spend upwards of 30% of their income on food, and since the working poor are the most likely to be the ones on food stamps, we might need to consider giving more money to those on food stamps? (Hey, or investing in making produce cheaper…I’ll take either one. If we can do it with corn and wheat? We can do it with broccoli.) If we ignore the fact that education affects socio-economic status and the probability that someone will face these kinds of problems? Then we never have to invest, as a nation, in lifting the socio-economic status of our citizens. If we refute the fact that there is such a thing as “problem foods,” then we never have to address the fact that the very foods we subsidize are the ones causing the problem.
No. Instead, let’s just do what we can to blame the problem on Black bodies – a genetic flaw, even – and then we don’t have to do anything about it. Double down on that by, after finding out that we’re not as bothered by our inability to achieve European standards of beauty, implying that something is wrong with us feeling that way. Hm.
Listen. For a long time, Black women weren’t even considered human enough to be considered in these studies. (That BMI they keep measuring us by… was created before the slaves were freed. I’m just sayin’.) I’m actually glad that we’re being included… but not like this. Not like this, not resulting in these kinds of stories, and not resulting in these kinds of conversations and feelings about ourselves. We’re still learning. We don’t need to learn like this.
*I’m certain that someone will challenge this, but nothing I have ever read tells me that hormones meant to affect one mammal will not affect the mammal that consumes it. Pasteurization of milk, a known contributor, makes a difference in the amount of hormones consumed, but not a 100% difference. I don’t care what studies the Dairy Association funds. I’m not buying it.