UA Study Finds Hispanic, Black and White Girls Have Same Abnormal Eating Behaviors

UA Study Finds Hispanic, Black and White Girls Have Same Abnormal Eating Behaviors
UA Study Finds Hispanic, Black and White Girls Have Same Abnormal Eating Behaviors

Hispanic and black girls have many of the same abnormal eating behaviors as white girls, according to a study at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. Study findings were presented at the Academy for Eating Disorders' 2002 International Conference on Eating Disorders, held April 25-28, in Boston, Mass.
The study, "A Longitudinal Analysis of Patterns of Disordered Eating Among Adolescent Girls from Three Ethnic Groups," involved 173 Hispanic, black and white girls participating in the McKnight Risk Factor Project, a 10-year study of eating disorders in more than 2,000 girls in grades 4 through 12 being conducted at the UA and Stanford University.

"A growing body of research indicates that minority females exhibit many of the same abnormal eating behaviors as white females," says principal investigator Catherine M. Shisslak, PhD, professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, UA College of Medicine.

The study examined ethnic differences in the eating behaviors of 84 white, 59 Hispanic and 30 black girls over four years, beginning in seventh grade. In seventh grade, more Hispanic girls reported frequent weight loss attempts over the previous year than did black or white girls (36, 21 and 12 percent, respectively). By 10th grade, the groups had no meaningful rate differences (Hispanics, 14 percent; blacks and whites both 13 percent). This pattern was found for all weight loss methods, although prevalence rates were much lower for extreme methods such as vomiting or using diet pills or laxatives.

Frequent binge eating in seventh grade was highest among Hispanic girls (12 percent), and lowest among white and black girls (2 and 3 percent, respectively). By 10th grade, more white girls (10 percent) reported frequent binge eating than Hispanics (7 percent) or blacks (3 percent). This represents a 42 percent decrease among Hispanics, but a 400 percent increase among whites and no change among blacks.

"Overall, these findings indicate that it is unwise to group all ethnic groups together, to ignore developmental differences, and to rely exclusively on cross-sectional data in studies of eating-related behaviors," says Dr. Shisslak.