Free Essay: Obesity in African American Culture

Published: 2023-03-08
Free Essay: Obesity in African American Culture
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Diet Nutrition Social issue
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1007 words
9 min read

Obesity is one of the biggest health concerns in the 21st century. The condition is of interest since it is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and some types of cancers (The GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators, 2017). Individuals with a BMI above thirty are considered obese and advised to lose excess weight and maintain a healthy weight, as a healthy weight is not necessarily less weight. Obesity is, however, hard to get rid of since most individuals regain weight in 5 years. In the US, According to Ogden, Carroll, Fryar, & Flegal, (2015), the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% in the year 2016, affecting 93.3 million Americans. African American women have a 66% higher chance of being obese, as compared to Caucasian women. The condition is also expensive to treat and costs an average of $17 to treat (Ogden et al., 2015). Health experts have, therefore, emphasized understanding the causes of obesity as a means to control the affected numbers.

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Understanding Obesity

A person's weight is determined by their balance between energy intake and its expenditure. Consumption that is higher than expenditure causes the accumulation of energy, which is stored as adipose tissue or fat. The lack of physical activity to use energy determines how much weight the individual gains. A sedentary lifestyle uses less energy compared to an active one, so the individual converts more energy into fats and stores it.

However, eating small amounts of food or having an active life alone does not guarantee a healthy weight. A person's weight is determined by the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). While some people metabolize food fast, others will take longer to metabolize the same amount of food. People with a high BMR get hungry faster, so eat more, and hardly add weight. However, those with a lower BMR take longer to metabolize food and get hungry in less frequent intervals. BMR is a function of genes, and African Americans genes predispose them to lower BMR and increased ability to store fat in form of adipose, which explains the higher obesity risks.

Some medications, such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, diabetes medications, and oral contraceptives, have also been linked to weight gain in people using them. However, the disparity between some people gaining weight, while others do not is evidence of the role of genes. Genes determine one's predisposition to obesity when exposed to certain factors. A person is more likely to develop obesity if one or both of their parents are obese (Simmonds, Llewellyn, Owen, & Woolacott, 2016). The genes are passed through the lineage and determine how much fat the individual can store as adipose tissue, irrespective of how the drugs change their eating habits or hormonal levels.

According to Crujeiras et al. (2015), obesity is characterized by high levels of leptin, but the body is resistant to leptin. Leptin, also called the hunger hormone, increases energy expenditure and decreases food intake. Leptin is produced in an amount higher than normal in obese individuals, but the hormone does not enter the cerebral spinal fluid for transportation. African Americans have higher leptin levels than Caucasians, but they remain more susceptible to obesity because their bodies can store more fat.

Solutions for Obesity

Although genes play a significant role in the development of obesity, everyone is at risk of being obese. Weight gain happens over a while, and many people ignore the initial stages of obesity. Keeping weight in check is, therefore, crucial to avoid an overpass to obesity (Bray, Fruhbeck, Ryan, & Wilding, 2016). A BMI higher than 25 is an indicator of being overweight and should signal the need to start excising regularly and eating healthy. Food intake must balance energy expenditure, which is achieved by shifting from a sedentary into an active lifestyle. For those who work in offices, creating and adhering to a strict exercise routine will eliminate inactivity. The exercise should also be accompanied by fewer intakes of simple carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods (Bray et al., 2016). Genetically predisposed individuals such as African Americans have to be particularly selective on food intake and maintain an active lifestyle since they are at a higher risk. Prevention of obesity in children is also essential as the likelihood of being an obese adult is higher. Caregivers, especially those of genetically susceptible children, must adhere to a low carbohydrate diet and help the children maintain an active lifestyle by preferring outdoor activities.


According to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% in the year 2016, affecting 93.3 million Americans, with African Americans forming a significant portion of these figures. Obesity increases the risk of other lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The risks are even higher in genetically predisposed individuals, although other factors such as feeding habits, level of activity, and environmental factors contribute to obesity. African Americans store more fat in the form of adipose tissue, particularly females, therefore, have to keep checking their weight, as they are at a higher risk of being obese.


Bray, G. A., Fruhbeck, G., Ryan, D. H., & Wilding, J. P. (2016). Management of obesity. The Lancet, 387(10031), 1947-1956.

Crujeiras, A. B., Carreira, M. C., Cabia, B., Andrade, S., Amil, M., & Casanueva, F. F. (2015). Leptin resistance in obesity: an epigenetic landscape. Life sciences, 140, 57-63.

The GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators, (2017). Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 Years. (2017). New England Journal of Medicine, 377 (1), 13-27. doi: 10.1056/nejmoa1614362

Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Fryar, C. D., & Flegal, K. M. (2015). Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: the United States, 2011-2016.

Simmonds, M., Llewellyn, A., Owen, C. G., & Woolacott, N. (2016). Predicting adult obesity from childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 17(2), 95-107.

Swinburn, B., & Ravussin, E. (2015). Energy balance or fat balance? The American Journal of clinical nutrition, 57(5), 766S-771S.

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