Ethnicity and Unhealthy Weight Control

Healthy Choices study showed not-so-healthy patterns.

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2011 Volume 22, Number 2
©2011 Gürze Books

Ethnic disparities in childhood overweight are well documented. In addition, disordered weight control behaviors (DWCB) have been linked to overweight and weight gain in multiple ways. However, not much is known about unhealthy weight control practices in black and Hispanic youth, especially boys. Dr. S. Bryn Austin and colleagues recently reported the results of their study of the distribution and determinants of ethnic and gender disparities in DWCB in young adolescents.

In fall 2005, 47 Massachusetts middle schools participated in the Healthy Choices overweight prevention study. Each school administered a self-report baseline survey that assessed student sociodemographics, height, weight, and DWCB (one question asked specifically about vomiting or use of laxatives or diet pills in the past month to control weight). Data from 16,978 girls and boys were used in multivariate logistic regression models to estimate the odds of DWCB in black and Hispanic youth compared with their white peers, controlling for individual- and school-level factors (J Adolesc Health 2011; 48:109)


Among white youths, 2.7% of girls and 2.3% of boys reported DWCB. The odds of DWCB were elevated 2 to10 times in most ethnic groups in comparison to whites. Disparities were attenuated but persisted after controlling for multiple individual- and school-level factors.

The authors suggest that ethnic disparities in DWCB be considered in efforts to address the epidemic of childhood overweight.

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