Minority Populations in Industrialized Countries
In many industrialized countries, minority ethnic groups are especially liable to obesity and its complications. Some researchers believe that this is the result of a genetic predisposition to store fat which only becomes apparent when the individuals are exposed to a positive energy balance promoted by modern lifestyles. Central obesity, hypertension and NIDDM are very common in urban Australian Aborigines, but can be reduced or even eliminated within a very short time by simply reverting to a more traditional diet.
It is likely that other factors, especially those associated with poverty, may also have a role to play in the far higher levels of obesity and its complications observed in minority populations. In native American and African American populations, for instance, where poverty is common, low levels of activity stem from unemployment and poor diets reflect dependence on cheap high-fat processed foods. Rates of hypertension among African American females below the poverty level are 40% compared with 30% of those at or above the poverty level. The particularly high levels of obesity among minority groups living in the USA are illustrated clearly in Figure 1.5.
As outlined above, a general rise in body weight and a modest increase in percent body fat can be expected with age. However, there are certain periods of life when an individual may be particularly vulnerable to weight gain (Table 1.8).
A number of other groups have been identified as being at risk of weight gain and obesity for genetic, biological, lifestyle and other reasons. These include family history of obesity, smoking cessation, excessive alcohol intake, drug treatment for a wide range of medical conditions, certain disease states, changes in social circumstance, and recent successful weight loss. Major reductions in activity as a result of, for example, sports injury can also lead to substantial weight gain when there is not a compensatory decrease in habitual food intake.
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