African Americans are at a disadvantage in many areas along the socioeconomic spectrum, and according to a new study, weight loss is among them.
Black women need to work harder to lose weight compared to their White counterparts, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said in a study published this month in the International Journal of Obesity. To attain a level of weight loss comparable to their Caucasian peers, African-American women need to eat fewer calories and exercise more, the study concluded.
The discrepancy in the responses of Caucasian and African-American women to the same behavioral interventions of calorie restriction or increased physical activity has been suggested in several studies over the years, said James P. DeLany, the study’s lead investigator and an associate professor with the School of Medicine’s Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.
“At first, it was thought that perhaps the African-American women didn’t adhere as closely to their calorie prescriptions or that the interventions were not culturally sensitive,” he said in a statement. “But even in research projects that were designed to address those possibilities, the difference in weight loss remained.”
DeLany and his team tested the hypothesis that metabolic factors were contributing to the disparity by examining body weight changes, energy expenditure, physical activity and energy intake among 39 severely obese African-American and 66 Caucasian women who were participating in a six-month weight loss program of calorie restriction and increased physical activity. Physical activity levels were measured using multisensor activity monitors.
Despite starting at comparable body mass index measures and adhering as closely to the calorie restriction and activity prescriptions, Black women lost about seven fewer pounds than the White women, the tests revealed.
One possible reason was that the African-American women had lower resting metabolic rates and expended less energy daily than the other group, the study found. That finding could change the recommendations made during weight loss interventions.
“We prescribe how many calories are allowed and how much activity is needed during weight loss interventions based on the premise that people of the same weight have similar metabolic rates,” DeLany explained. “But to account for their lower metabolic rate, African-American women must further reduce the number of calories they eat or use up more of them with exercise in order to lose the same number of pounds in the same time span as a Caucasian woman of the same weight.”