Racial Differences in Weight Loss Mediated by Engagement and Behavior Change

Two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and African American women are the most likely to fall into these categories. Given the range of dangerous and costly diseases (type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, even certain cancers), it’s imperative to discover meaningful ways to improve these health outcomes.

One solution could be behavioral weight loss interventions (BWI), which combine diet, physical activity, and behavior modification to achieve weight reduction. However, African American women achieve smaller losses through BWI than do non-Hispanic White women. These racial differences are not well understood, which invite the need for further study: This analysis features a 4-month, randomized, controlled trial to examine the impact of race on women’s weight loss and weight-related behaviors.

Key Findings

  • Non-Hispanic women demonstrated significantly greater (approximately 3%) weight loss than African American women after 4 months.
  • These differences are partly explained by two factors: Non-Hispanic women demonstrated a significantly higher change in their Eating Behavior Inventory scores than African American women, a measure of their weight control self-monitoring and dietary management behaviors. Additionally, they exhibited greater study engagement, as measured by the count of their website log-ins.
  • However, greater understanding of these mechanisms and their complementary nature is required to reduce the racial disparities in  this behavioral weight loss intervention.

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