“Exposure” To U.S. May Raise Immigrants’ Obesity Risk
Posted Nov 15 2012 5:46pm
A new study finds that the longer immigrants from Mexico, and their U.S.-born offspring, spend in the United States, the greater their odds of becoming obese.
Compared to similar individuals living in Mexico, researchers found the grandchildren of immigrants to the U.S. from Mexico were three times more likely to be obese adults.
“We just couldn’t believe the fact that we found roughly a threefold increase from the one extreme… to the people on the other side,” said the study’s lead author Karen R. Florez, an associate social scientist at the non-profit research institute Rand Corporation, in Santa Monica, California.
Past research has found that immigrants to the U.S. are typically healthier in many ways than people in their ethnic groups who were born in the U.S.
In February, one study found that Hispanics born abroad had a much lower risk of stroke than their counterparts who were either born or spent most of their lives in the U.S. (see Reuters Health story of March 7, 2012.)
Florez and her fellow researchers said it’s also been established that U.S.-born Mexican Americans have greater odds of being obese than their family members who originally migrated from Mexico.
But the team wanted to extend that comparison to people who are still living in Mexico, in an attempt to tease apart and identify factors in the U.S. environment, or in the fact of being a migrant, that might influence obesity risk.
For the study, the researchers used one database from Mexico and another from the U.S. with information on 3,244 people’s body mass index (BMI), a measurement of weight in relation to height.
In adults, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. Anything above a BMI of 30 is considered obese.
Each person in the study population was separated into groups depending on how long they had been “exposed” to the U.S., if at all.