Mexican-American Youth Gaining Weight

mexican teens weightMexican-American youth gain weight as they lose their native dietary habits, according to new research published in the February issue of the Journal of Nutrition. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina, found that Mexican-American children born into second and third generation families are more likely to be obese than those who were not born in the United States. With Mexican-Americans being the fastest growing population segment in the US today, this prevalence of obesity could have grave public health consequences.

Using data from the 1999 -2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers evaluated the height and weight, as well as factors that gauge acculturation (the process of adopting behavior patterns of a different culture) for about 2,300 Mexican-American, ages 12-19.  Acculturation was measured by generation status and language preferences, and diet was evaluated using 24-hour diet recall.  One of the key finding from the study was that second-generation Mexican-American youth were 2.5 times more likely to be obese than their first-generation counterparts.  Third-generation Mexican Americans were two times more likely to be obese. The researchers found that teens from second and third generations take in more saturated fat and sodium, and drink more sugary beverages. Additionally, compared to first-generation youth, their consumption of vegetables, fruits, grains, meat and beans was lower. The study authors explain that the findings indicate that Mexican-American teens struggle with poorer diet and excessive weight gain that is related to their immigration and acculturation experience – and the greater the acculturation experienced, the less healthy their diet. Not many studies have evaluated the impact of both immigration and a child’s acculturation on obesity. Research has been more focused on adults. While the study did not address the causes, the authors say that for many immigrants, healthier foods like vegetables and fruit may not fit into their budgets and instead they are buying cheaper foods with higher caloric content, fats, and sugars.

Dr. Gregg Jossart, expert weight loss surgeon and Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery at California Pacific Medical Center commented on the study. He said: “This article is just one of may over the years that highlights the risk of obesity from the Western Junk food diet.  However, it does fail to point out that in Mexico, obesity is also on the rise and the most common cause of death is from obesity related diabetes. Obesity in adults and children is increasing worldwide and will soon pass smoking as the number one cause of death in America.”

While, as Dr. Jossart pointed out, obesity is also increasing in Mexico, the typical American diet is very different from the traditional Mexican diet of pork and fish, corn, beans, and fruits & vegetables such as squash and avocado. Conversely, nothing exemplifies the extreme of the ‘unhealthy American’ diet and food culture, like the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, where people who weigh 350 pounds or more are celebrated and eat for free.  Just this month, a man was working his way through their 600 calorie “Triple-Bypass-Burger” when he actually suffered a heart attack in the restaurant.

Comments are closed.