Asian-American children have been at low risk for being overweight or obese compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., but that may be changing. Yet as rates of overweight and obesity rise, the risk appears to vary depending on the Asian country of origin, according to an article in Childhood Obesity, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Childhood Obesity website at http://www.liebertpub.com/chi.
In the article "Prevalence of Obesity among Young Asian-American Children," weight measurements from Asian-American 4-year-olds showed that 26% were overweight or obese and 13% were obese. The study included the following Asian ethnic categories: Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Other Asian/Pacific Islander.
When the children were divided into groups based on the mother's ethnicity, the study authors, Anjali Jain, MD et al. from The Lewin Group (Falls Church, VA), Children's National Medical Center, George Washington University School of Health and Health Sciences, Georgetown University (Washington, DC), and Medical College of Virginia (Richmond), found that while Chinese-American children were at lower risk of overweight or obesity (23.5%) than Whites (36%), Asian-Indian American children had the lowest rates (15.6%) and were the most likely to be underweight. In contrast, Vietnamese-American children had the highest rate of overweight or obesity (34.7%).
"To some extent, this important article highlights variable vulnerability to childhood obesity, based on ethnicity and culture. But what may be most important is the message that groups we long thought of as relatively immune no longer are," says David L. Katz, MD, MPH, Editor-in-Chief of Childhood Obesity and Director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center. "The obesigenic forces that prevail in the developed and developing countries of the world appear to trump genes and ethnicity, and appear to be stronger than traditional cultural practices. We are all in this together, and thus all have common cause that transcends borders and cultural practices to devise the array of defenses we and our children need."