Weight gain worry for stressed black girls

September 19, 2012, Springer

Could the impact of chronic stress explain why American black girls are more likely to be overweight than white girls? According to Dr. Tomiyama of the University of California, Los Angeles in the U.S., and her colleagues, higher levels of stress over 10 years predict greater increases in body weight over time in both black and white girls. However, the experience of chronic stress appears to have a greater negative effect on black girls' weight, which may explain racial disparities in obesity levels. The work is published online in Springer's journal, Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

In the United States, the prevalence of obesity in black populations is 50 percent higher than in whites. This difference is apparent even in childhood, and particularly in . In addition, ethnic minorities tend to experience greater psychological stress than whites due, in part, to perceived racial discrimination.

Tomiyama and team looked at whether the experience of chronic stress in young girls over a 10-year period might have an effect on (BMI), a measure of obesity. They were also interested in whether this effect might be different in white and black teenage girls.

Using data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) Growth and Health Study, the researchers assessed the prevalence of obesity in 2,379 black and white girls beginning at age 10 and followed up for 10 years. They also looked at their experience of psychological stress over that time.

Over 10 years, more black girls were overweight or obese than white girls, who reported more stress than black girls. In addition, levels of chronic stress predicted greater weight in both groups. Even though black girls reported less stress overall, the effect of on weight was stronger for these girls with one unit increase in stress leading to 0.8 BMI unit increase every two years. Comparatively, one unit of stress led to 0.55 BMI unit increase in white girls.

The authors conclude: "Our study documents a relationship between chronic perceived stress and BMI over a decade of growth in black and white girls. However, the relationship between perceived stress and BMI is stronger in black girls. may lead to weight gain through behavioral pathways, such as increased food consumption and sedentary lifestyles, but also directly through prolonged exposure to biological stress mediators such as cortisol."

Given how ubiquitous stress is, these findings raise the flag that stress may be playing a major role in the obesity epidemic as well as contributing to .

Explore further: Racial difference in effect of physical activity on obesity

More information: Tomiyama AJ et al (2012). Chronic psychological stress and racial disparities in Body Mass Index change between Black and White girls aged 10-19. Annals of Behavioral Medicine; DOI 10.1007/s12160-012-9398-x

Related Stories

Racial difference in effect of physical activity on obesity

June 6, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Black adolescent girls are less sensitive to the effects of physical activity in preventing obesity than are white girls, according to a study published in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent ...

Link between racial discrimination and stress described in new study

September 14, 2011
The consequences of psychological stress, resulting from racial discrimination, may contribute to racial health disparities in conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other age-associated diseases. This is ...

Study: Weight loss won't necessarily help teen girls' self-esteem

March 22, 2012
Obese white teenage girls who lose weight may benefit physically, but the weight change does not guarantee they are going to feel better about themselves, according to a Purdue University study.

Vitamin D intake may be associated with lower stress fracture risk in girls

March 5, 2012
Vitamin D may be associated with a lower risk of developing stress fractures in preadolescent and adolescent girls, especially among those very active in high-impact activities, according to a report published Online First ...

Recommended for you

Just a few minutes of light intensity exercise linked to lower death risk in older men

February 19, 2018
Clocking up just a few minutes at a time of any level of physical activity, including of light intensity, is linked to a lower risk of death in older men, suggests research published online in the British Journal of Sports ...

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline

February 16, 2018
Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean, according to new research published ...

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Keeping an eye on the entire ageing process

February 15, 2018
Medical researchers often only focus on a single disease. As older people often suffer from multiple diseases at the same time, however, we need to rethink this approach, writes Ralph Müller.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.