Study Finds Exercise May Not Fend Off Obesity Among Black Girls

Study Finds Exercise May Not Fend Off Obesity Among Black Girls

A new study of U.S. preteen and teen girls shows daily exercise was linked to weight and obesity in white girls but not Black girls.

Published June 6, 2012

For the most part, the key to losing weight is watching what you eat and being active. But a new study challenges that. It found that Black girls who work out and watch their calories are still more likely to be obese compared to white girls.
Two researchers from the U.K, James White of Cardiff University and Russell Jago of the University of Bristo, did an analysis of existing data collected from the National Institute of Health that followed girls in four U.S. cities when they were 9- or 10-years-old in 1985. That data also took into account height, weight, amount of activity, BMI and food habits. Reuters wrote about the study:

Twelve-year-old Black girls in the top half of the physical activity continuum were only 15 percent less likely to be obese by age 14 than ones in the lower half. White girls in the upper half on the other hand were 85 percent less likely to become obese over the next two years than were those in the lower half. Figures on how many girls became obese by age 14 were not given.

The study's authors believe that the culprit to this lies in the metabolic differences between the two. They wrote in the study, "Our results suggest that prompting adolescent girls to be active may be important to preventing obesity but that using different approaches (e.g. emphasizing reductions in energy intake) may be necessary to prevent obesity in Black girls."

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. While you have a natural metabolism rate, working out and digestion process also play a part in that rate as well. Having a "higher" metabolism means when you are not moving or resting, you are still burning what you eat and drink. Most people gain weight when they consume more calories than what they are burning.

These set of researchers are not the only ones who have found racial differences in metabolism. A 2008 study found that Black children tend to have a lower resting metabolism than whites.

And while this particular study seems very convincing, it's important to keep in mind that not only was this data taken almost 30 years ago, we also have no knowledge about the weight of these Black girls as they became adults. Did they lose the weight as they got older? Did make being active make a difference and improve their metabolism as they reached their 20s and early 30s?

We just don't have that information. And so we shouldn't just say, "Oh, the heck with working out!"

Genetics may be an obstacle, but that doesn't mean it’s something that cannot be overcome. Black women and teens lose weight all the time and keep it off by working out, eating healthier and limiting fatty foods from their diets. This study doesn't trump that.

If anything, my advice is to work out even harder.

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(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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