Obesity Increasing Among Immigrants

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Obesity Increasing Among Immigrants

A 2004 study by the American Medical Association found that the body mass index – or BMI – of the average immigrant increases the longer that he or she has lived in the United States. In fact, data shows that the obesity rate for immigrants living in the United States for more than 15 years is 19%, compared to only 8% for those who have been here less than a year. And, younger immigrants are even more at risk of developing high BMI numbers the longer they live in the States.

In other words, for many immigrants, gaining U.S. citizenship also means gaining weight.

To address this trend, the National Institutes of Health has just given Tufts University a four-year, $2.3 million grant to design an obesity prevention program for immigrants. The program team will follow more than 400 pairs of mothers and their children who have lived in the United States less than five years. The mothers’ group will focus on making dietary changes and increasing physical activity to maintain a healthy weight, while researchers will concentrate on preventing weight gain in the children.

If successful, the program will reduce the rate of obesity for its participants. And, since people who weigh less are at lower risk of developing serious medical conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, the study may help curb the cost of health care for taxpayers as well.

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