What One Food Is Most Dangerous For Black Women?

Study that looked at several meals commonly linked with obesity found that one particular food stands out. Which is it?

By Chris Hoenig

Study finds burgers increase obesity risk in Black women more than other unhealthy foods.

Photo by Shutterstock

Doctors have long said that diet is a key in the fight against obesity, but a new study finds that one food is more dangerous for Black women than others: burgers.

Researchers at Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center followed nearly 20,000 Black women who signed up as part of the Black Women’s Health Study. They tracked how often the women consumed eight specific not-so-healthy foods: fried fish, pizza, Chinese food, Mexican food, fried chicken, burgers, soft drinks and French fries. The women who ate at least two burgers a week were at a 26 percent higher risk of becoming obese than those who didn’t.

Soft drinks were next on the list, with at least two drinks a day leading to a 10 percent greater risk of obesity in Black women. “The association with burgers was stronger than that with sugar-sweetened soft drinks,” study authors Deborah Boggs, Lynn Rosenberg, Patricia Coogan, Kepher Makambi, Lucile Adams-Campbell and Julie Palmer wrote.

Perhaps surprisingly, eating French fries with the burger did not appear to play a role, with no noticeable statistical difference between those who ate French fries and those who didn’t. But age and weight did appear to be factors that determined how the participants’ bodies would respond, with younger and healthier women actually in more danger. Risks increased for women who were under age 30 and had a normal weight at the start of the study in 1995.

“The identification of individual foods or beverages that are associated with weight gain provides a basis for specific and straightforward recommendations to help prevent obesity,” the researchers wrote. “Awareness needs to be raised that even young women who have healthy weights are at risk of becoming obese if they frequently consume these food items.”

All of the participants were between the ages of 21 and 39; were not classified as obese; and did not have a history of heart disease or cancer at the beginning of the study. They self-reported their weight every two years from 1995 to 2011 and filled out surveys about their diets in 1995 and 2001.

Nearly half of all Black Americans are obese, putting the Black population at an already increased risk for the health problems that go along with it. Half of Black women die from stroke or heart disease, two of the conditions linked with obesity, a rate that is twice that of whites.

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  • I saw this article appeared at Luke Visconti’s listserv a few times, and thought I have to say something. The article mentioned that the authors “tracked how often the women consumed eight specific not-so-healthy foods: fried fish, pizza, Chinese food, Mexican food, fried chicken, burgers, soft drinks and French fries.” I have questions about how the authors define specific not-so-healthy foods. Both Chinese food and Mexican food are ethnic food, and have different types of foods under them. Some types of Chinese food and Mexican food are not healthy but many types of them are healthy. I don’t think it is fair to label overall Chinese food or Mexican food as “not-so-healthy.” It is misleading and not scientific. The authors may list fried rice, chow mien, fried taco or fried beans as part of their specific types of foods in their study, but cannot only list Chinese food or Mexican food along with burgers, fried chicken, fried fish, pizza. By the way, Chinese food has fried chicken and fried fish, too.

  • Delorme McKee-Stovall

    I agree with the author of the comments. 46 years ago, when I was at student of nursing at a major university, my colleagues and I had to fight the bias of instructors towards ethnic foods. The response to minority student concerns regarding this matter was to deny our reasoning. It became so difficult that we contacted the Chair of the State Legislature’s Education Committee, chaired for the first time by a person of color. He was appalled by School of Nursing’s position on ethnic foods rather than the health food preparation options and moderation that could apply to all diets specific to cultures. During the meeting that I attended the Chair of the Education Committee found it necessary to use the committee’s control of funding to persuade the administration to yield on the matter. All foods can be good and bad, based on the way that it is processed, the amount consumed and the counterbalance of activity.

    Promoting abstinence when it comes to diets is akin to promoting abstinence from sex or zero tolerance of student behaviors on a school campus, is not a sustainable solution and could lead to more damage than good in the end.

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