/publications/issue/2005/2005-02/2005-02-9294

Immigrants Adopt New Lifestyle, Poor Eating Habits

Author: Susan Farley

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationfound that obesity rates among immigrants to the United States increase 11% after living in this country for 15 years. Study data were based on a 2000 national health survey of 32,374 participants, of whom 14% were immigrants. Although researchers made allowances for age-related weight gain, they found that the increases were higher than what could be expected from natural aging. Study authors point to advances in technology that make people more sedentary?remote controls, drivethrough fast food restaurants, as well as an increased availability of high-calorie foods. They were also able to find a link between obesity and the number of years spent in the United States among white, Hispanic, and Asian immigrant groups. The numbers of black immigrants were not high enough to be included in the study. The results pose a problem for immigrants who may experience language and cultural barriers to obtaining good health care. Physicians encourage immigrants to maintain healthy traditions of eating diets rich in fruits and vegetables.

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.