BWHS research on weight featured in Essence Magazine

in Health News
July 16th, 2014

“The New Science of Weight Loss”, in the January 2014 issue of Essence Magazine, highlights research from the BWHS.

The BWHS has contributed to the understanding of weight gain and weight control through many research publications on this topic.  In addition to the research highlighted in the Essence article (the first 3 publications below), the list below includes some more recent weight-related research publications from BWHS:

To determine whether diet quality affects weight gain, we assessed dietary patterns in relation to weight gain among BWHS participants who were ages 21-39 at the start of follow-up.  These ages were studied because most weight gain in adults occurs before age 40. Two dietary patterns were assessed in 1995 and in 2001.  Women who maintained high quality diets over time had a lower risk of becoming obese.  The healthiest diets were low in red and processed meats and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. link to online article

Cozier YC, Yu J, Coogan PF, Bethea TN, Rosenberg L, Palmer JR.  Racism, segregation, and risk of obesity in the Black Women’s Health Study.  Am J Epidemiol 2014;179(7):875-83. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu004. link to online article

Overweight and obesity have increased greatly in the U.S. in recent decades and are a particular problem for Black women. We used BWHS data on weight and childbearing collected during the first four years of follow-up, 1995 to 1999, to assess whether having a child was associated with increased long-term weight gain. We found that women who had a first child gained more weight than women who had a second or later child, and that the weight gain of all three groups was more than that of women who did not have a child. The difference in weight gain between women who had a child and women who did not was greatest for women who were overweight to begin. The results indicate that childbearing is an important contributor to weight gain among Black women. link to online article

Boggs DA, Rosenberg L, Coogan PF, Makambi KH, Adams-Campbell LL, Palmer JR. Restaurant foods, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, and obesity risk among young African American women.  Ethn Dis 2013;23(4):445-51. link to online article

BWHS participants who exercised vigorously were less likely to become obese than less active women.   Women who walked briskly also appeared to have a lower risk, although the results were less clear than for vigorous exercise. These effects on weight were independent of dietary factors and other factors related to weight gain. link to online article

Sexual and physical abuse during childhood were associated with increased risk of overall obesity and central obesity during adulthood among BWHS participants.  The association was weakened after “controlling” for health behaviors, reproductive history, and mental health during adulthood, which may have resulted in part from the abuse. These findings add to the increasing evidence that childhood abuse can lead to adult obesity and other adverse health outcomes.  link to online article

Children with lower socioeconomic status during childhood tend to gain more weight in adulthood than children from families with higher socioeconomic status.  In the BWHS, the risk of becoming obese in adulthood among participants who had graduated from college was the same for those who had high and low socioeconomic status in childhood, indicating that economic disadvantage during childhood can be counteracted by socioeconomic status in adulthood.  link to online article

Two patterns of dietary consumption have emerged from analyses of food consumption data provided by BWHS participants — a vegetable/fruit pattern, which is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, and whole grains, and a meat/fried foods pattern, which is high in red meat, processed meat, French fries, fried chicken, and added fat. BWHS participants who had a high score for the vegetable/fruit dietary pattern gained less weight during 14 years of follow-up than women who had a low score on that pattern, and women with a high score on the meat/fried foods pattern gained more weight than those with a lower score. Thus, BWHS data indicate that a vegetable/fruit pattern is effective for reducing weight gain. link to online article