Health and Fitness

New Study Suggests Black Women Have a Harder Road to Weight Loss Than White Women

big belly

A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, published in the International Journal of Obesity, might show proof that black women DO have a harder time losing weight than white women.

The skinny:

African-American women may need to eat fewer calories or burn more than their Caucasian counterparts to lose a comparable amount of weight, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in a study published online today in the International Journal of Obesity.

Several studies have suggested that African-American women don’t lose as much weight as Caucasian women in response to the same behavioral interventions of calorie restriction or increased physical activity, said lead investigator, James P. DeLany, Ph.D., associate professor, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Pitt School of Medicine.

“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. “But even in research projects that were designed to address those possibilities, the difference in weight loss remained.”

Dr. DeLany’s team decided to see if there were metabolic reasons behind the discrepancy 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. They measured body composition and daily energy expenditure at the beginning and end of the intervention period and assessed physical activity levels using multisensor activity monitors. By combining these measures, they obtained objective assessment of intake during the intervention.

The researchers found that the African-American women lost about seven pounds fewer than the Caucasian women, even though their starting body mass index, or BMI, measures were comparable and they followed as closely to the calorie restriction and activity prescriptions. But the African-American women had lower resting metabolic rates and expended less energy daily than the other group.

Okay; this makes sense to me. The formula for black women can’t simply be “eat less, move more.” It’s more like, “eat smart, move more.” I have seen with my own health journey that I simply can’t eat the same things my husband of European ancestry can. He can eat bread, beer, wheat and rice and pasta no problem. When I make that part of my regular diet, fat clings to my middle, I feel sluggish and mentally “foggy.” Since I have converted to an almost 100% paleo diet (which just means I eat lean meats, greens, fruits and nuts, yams and sweet potatoes and no wheat, rice, pasta or refined sugars) I’m the slimmest and fittest I have ever been. Incidentally, this is how my hunter/gatherer West African ancestors ate. The key to a black woman’s healthy body is avoidance of sharp spikes in blood sugar from anything white and/or made from refined sugar.


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