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Race is an important determinant of body mass status

  1. Aug 27, 2004 #1
    Ethn Dis. 2004 Summer;14(3):389-98.

    Race/ethnic and sex differentials in body mass among us adults.

    Denney JT, Krueger PM, Rogers RG, Boardman JD.

    Population Program, Institute of Behavioral Science, and Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0484, USA. denneyj@colorado.edu

    Current research incompletely documents race/ethnic and sex disparities in body mass, especially at the national level. Data from the 2000 National Health Interview Survey, Sample Adult File, are used to examine overall and sex-specific disparities in body mass for non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, and Cuban Americans. Two complementary multivariate regression techniques, ordinary least squares and multinomial logistic, are employed to control for important confounding factors. We found significantly higher body masses for non-Hispanic Blacks, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexican Americans, compared to non-Hispanic Whites. Among very obese individuals, these relationships were more pronounced for females. Given the known health consequences associated with overweight and obesity, and recent trends toward increasing body mass in the United States, these findings underscore the need for public health policies that target specific subpopulations, in order to close the wide disparities in body mass in the United States.

    PMID: 15328941
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  3. Aug 27, 2004 #2


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    heh heh
    It is great how all this library research is happening.
    Now just to make something clear. You give no indication, hitssquad, that you are ignorant of the possibility that a lot of the bodymass differences between various pops can be attributed (probably) to non-genetic stuff like to SES (socioeconomicstatus) and to culture and to the local fastfood operators.

    so if I came in here and asked you disingenous questions like "What! Are you trying to suggest that this is all genetic? Man you are so naive!" then that would be insulting, or condescending. It would, I think, be a sanctimonious or hostile question.

    But there is a remote possibility, I suppose, that the discussion could descend to that (I would say thuggish or guttersnipe) level of debate. Of course it never has at PF, has it? But it could happen. So I want to be real real clear. You and the author(s) of the abstract didnt talk about genetic determinants and so I am not projecting thoughts in anybody's head.
    I am assuming you take for granted that there are big non-genetic factors in bodymass, and I shouldnt even have to say this.

    that said, look at this interesting detail:

    U Colorado Sociology Department has a program called "Population Program"-------so they have a bunch of academics devoted to studying
    population effects on various things, and they go out and get grants
    for this kind of thing, probably from Feds, and they probably think that their studies are potentially useful for the intelligent administration of various social programs-----including, maybe, government people concerned with Americans being overweight.

    So here is still more evidence of the scientific usefulness of race and that real scientists use race classifications in research. We shouldnt have to validate this----but it seems that the practice is under attack by the word police.

    So let's imagine possible responses:
    1. they shouldnt have done that, they should have correlated weight
    only with SES because poor people preyed-on by the Fastfood Chains.
    they should have only considered SES and not race, they are bad

    2.they should have said "ancestry" instead of race and correlated being overweight to "ancestry". They aren't nice because they used a bad word.

    3.the fact that they get grant money to do this kind of research shows that
    the US Census is bad, for having race boxes, and it shows that the Federal Funding agencies are bad, and it shows that the US is obsessed with race and bad. And look they dont do this in other countries! :zzz:

    Having addressed the ideology and hostility surrounding the topic, let's just look at the paper. I guess my personal reaction is it sounds pretty dumb.
    I am glad I am not a sociologist. I would not like to have to study a question like "Which Americans are Fattest" by sex and by race/ethnicity.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2004
  4. Aug 27, 2004 #3


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    I second marcus by asking: so, were there any environmental differences between the groups they sampled from? In the title they mention ethnicity, that is a environmental term: a sizable group of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage.
  5. Aug 27, 2004 #4


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    I haven't read the article, so could be wrong about the full content, but based on the abstract, I'd say the title of the post is not consistent with the point of the article. This study does not seem to be saying race is a determinant of body mass, let alone an important one. It says there is an association between body mass and some racial/ethnic groups. I'm sure if the authors found a causational link, that would be greatly emphasized in their abstract...heck, it would be published in Science or Nature, not Ethn. Dis. (sorry, don't even know what the Dis is an abbreviation for: Ethnic Discussions perhaps?). Indeed, the article includes groups that are not races, but ethnic groups (Puerto Rican, Mexican)...these two groups would include people who are a mixture of races (if we're going to use the term race). The authors don't seem to confuse this in their abstract, but the title of the post seems to miss that point.

    Marcus is right, this sort of finding could easily shift in a different direction if fast food chains started advertising heavily to a different population. Have you ever noticed the number of fast food restaurants crammed into a poor, urban area with a predominantly black and hispanic population? It could also be that among blacks, their culture has been more tolerant/accepting of overweight for a longer time than white culture. While whites (as a group, not as individuals) were on six thousand different diets trying to look anorexic, black culture was emphasizing a big "booty" as sexy. Now that mainstream culture in the US (i.e., everybody) has grown more tolerant of overweight (the whole 80s PC thing of you have to accept me for who I am being misconstrued as it's okay to be overweight), the entire US is catching up on this obesity problem. I'd actually predict it will normalize across racial/ethnic groups in another 10 years, or maybe with all the emphasis of studies such as this focusing on better nutritional information for blacks and hispanics, perhaps they will get a head start in combatting the obesity epidemic. But, quite frankly, I don't need someone to use federal funding to determine this...all I need to do is look at someone to know if they are overweight or obese and if they should be doing something about it to avoid obesity-related illnesses.

    I'm not suggesting these are the causes or the only causes, just that, based on the abstract, I don't see evidence for this necessarily being a biological cause rather than a societal or cultural cause.

    Hitssquad, I'm not saying getting at the cause is in any way unimportant. Treating obesity is an important thing for reducing obesity related illness in the US, and if different approaches need to be taken for different people, that's good to know (though seems obvious). However, science already has tools to address this question in far better detail than this particular study seems to have done. Of course, I may come back with my foot in my mouth after reading the full article if it goes into more detail about things not mentioned in the abstract.

    Do you know who would use this information, though? The industry manufacturing quick-fix diet products. Now they can identify populations who may have greater receptivity to their advertising since they have higher incidence of the problem (and, actually, I don't think the above abstract talks about incidence of obesity, but degree of obesity). That's who population level studies like this benefit, advertisers who need to take a broad approach to hit a target audience.
  6. Aug 27, 2004 #5


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    I have to say I'm really happy about a lot of things
    mostly the calm level-headed and thoughtful responses of Monique and Moonbear
    I am neither smart nor knowledgeable to judge but I can tell
    you that I feel unthreatened and accepted and I dont hear any moral spin.
    I hear just simple reasoning----and freedom about what words to use---and no power play either.

    Also I am happy because hitssquad gave us a Rorschach test. He said nothing he just silently showed us the inkblot to see what we would read into it. This is an amusing strategy, or maybe not even a strategy just a quaint and slightly devious habit.

    Another thing I like is that I can't figure out what hitssquad avatar picture is of. Last time I looked it seemed it was a real person who had covered his body with blue-gray clay and put a mask on his face. But I'm still clueless what it really is, or why anyone would want to look like that.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2004
  7. Aug 27, 2004 #6


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    Let me see now ... "Department of Sociology", hmm, so it's unlikely they will be talking about genes (except tangentially).

    "Colorado", so this isn't about Singapore, or India.

    "non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, and Cuban Americans", sounds like the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, BUREAU OF THE CENSUS (Census 2000): "The racial classifications used by the Census Bureau adhere to the October 1997 revised standards for the classification of Federal data on race and ethnicity, issued by the Office of Management and Budget. These standards govern the categories used to collect and publish Federal data on race and ethnicity. Each answer provided by a respondent represents self-classification according to the race or races with which the individual most closely identifies. This question includes both racial and national origin or socio-cultural groups and attempts to reflect the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population." {my emphasis}

    So, is hitssquad gaming us (this has nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with sociology, and of only <5% of Homo sap. at that). :grumpy:
  8. Aug 27, 2004 #7
    Postcards from Chelyabinsk

    It's from the Chelyabinsk museum of embryology. Here is a big version.


      September 2001 - CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA

      The museum of embryology has a morbid looking collection of embryos and foetuses, life that never came into being. Professor Gennady Vasilievich Brukhin explains: "Most frequently, environmental circumstances are to blame." Some of the embryos have abnormalities typical for the effects of radiation. There was a child that was born with joined legs, a condition, says Professor Brukhin, "that looks like the mermaid from Anderson's fairy tale." People in Muslomovo speak of children that were born, looking like 'fish'. The women from the area claim they all have to give birth in one state-supervised clinic. They say that when a child is still born, it is taken away from them and they never get to see it.

      © Robert Knoth/Greenpeace
  9. Aug 27, 2004 #8


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    Well, since so many threads started over in social sciences on similar topics including racial categorizations got moved over here to biology, I'm guessing hitssquad took a chance to start out in biology and miscalculated the direction the discussion would head. :rolleyes: This does seem to be heading in a sociology direction this time.
  10. Aug 27, 2004 #9


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    that is a most horrible reminder
    I lived thru the coldwar armsrace
    hitssquad, i do not understand any of your purposes but
    for whatever reason i think you have used the avatar box well
  11. May 13, 2005 #10


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    could babies with anencephaly be subject to artificial neuron-computer machines that would replace a brain?

    or perhaps for starters implanting a reptilian cerebellum with midbrain right on top of the brain stem?
    Last edited: May 13, 2005
  12. May 13, 2005 #11


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    The current technology involving brain/computer interface is rather limited, most of it leans more toward communication between the two and not substitution of one for the other. You'd have better luck with your second solution

    Having said that, this is not very likely to succeed either. For one xenografts are known for rejection issues and are generally done between roughly similar species, using a reptile just over-complicates it. So lets try a monkey...you still would have to reconnect countless central and peripheral neuronal pathways to make the brain "talk" to the body, regeneration or rebuilding such connections is difficult in the PNS and some would say impossible in the CNS. Plus you would have to re-establish the circulatory connections to keep the brain alive and these may not even exist due to the morphological alterations caused by development in the face of anencephaly. Overall this would require some pretty fancy techniques that I don't think we have available to us at present or in the near future. Not to mention obvious ethical considerations.
  13. Jul 21, 2005 #12
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