Black women are heavier than their white counterparts new research suggests, because "they experience racism more often". However, none of the reviews of the association of discrimination to health, document the quantitative nature of this relationship.
A study based on “feelings” published in the highly respected American Journal of Epidemiology in 2014 shows that black women who frequently perceive racism find comfort in food. But the study could also mean that black women have found a handy excuse in perceived white racism to eat too much.
Conducted by the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University in the US between 1997 and 2009, the researchers questioned 59 000 African-American women.
During the survey, black participants were asked about their perceptions of racism. Leading questions such as “the frequency of everyday experiences of racism”, including bad service in restaurants and shops, and whether they had been treated “unfairly because of their race”, in finding housing, or by the police.
Investigators found that women who reported more experiences of racism over the 12-year period ate too much fattening food and were 69 percent more likely to become obese.
The Black Women’s Health Study collected information on “experiences of racism”, a highly subjective issue. Lifestyle factors, height and weight were included in questionnaires they distributed to participants twice a year, but the study encouraged participants to state their negative perceptions as fact.
Researchers thus found that perceptions of racism contributed to obesity, but could give no quantitative measure. The researchers maintained that because both animal and human studies show that chronic exposure to stress can result in disrupted hormonal functions, racism must be blamed, because four out of five African-American women are seriously overweight.
“Based on 4,315 incident cases of obesity identified from 1997 through 2009, both everyday racism and lifetime racism were positively associated with increased incidence [of obesity]. The incidence rate ratios for women who were in the highest category of everyday racism or lifetime racism in both 1997 and 2009. These associations were not modified by residential segregation. These results suggest that racism contributes to the higher incidence of obesity among African American women.”
According also to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blacks have 51 percent higher obesity rates than whites do.
Because the study was conducted among Americans, some white liberals have tried to link the high levels of black South African obesity to racism in South Africa. There is one small problem though: the obesity rate among black women reached alarming levels only after the end of Apartheid and as well as after a sharp rise in food insecurity as a result of the ongoing farm murders.
In October 2011, Compass Group Southern Africa placed South Africa third in the world in terms of obesity rankings after the US and Britain. But since the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the United Kingdom has never implemented any laws that officially discriminate or segregate on the grounds of race or ethnicity.
A survey conducted by the Medical Research Council found that 61 percent of South Africans are overweight, obese or morbidly obese on a diet of mainly maize, bread and sugar today. The survey results, which were released in 2012, also revealed that 70 percent of South African women older than 35 were overweight or obese, and 33 percent of them are black.
Today, some 42 percent of South African woman are obese, according to a recent study by the University of Washington. This is the highest obesity rate in sub-Saharan Africa. Coyne Healthcare’s, Vanessa Ascencao, says that according to the study about 14 percent of men and almost 9 percent of children in South Africa are also considered obese.
But in Africa excessive fatness continues to be embraced as a sign of health, wealth and happiness. Due to the high prevalence of AIDS, the association between weight loss and illness has contributed to South Africa’s negative view of thinness amongst the black population.
The centuries-old correlation between higher weight and higher wealth therefore did not end with the end of Apartheid. Large black women continue to be favored because it indicates a higher financial status.
Cardiovascular disease incidentally, is the leading cause of death in Kuwaiti women too, where 52 percent of females over 15 are obese for beauty reasons. There is no scourge of racism in Kuwait.
With nearly 65 percent of black Jamaican females classified as obese, the ideal beach body is nearly twice its medically-appropriate size. In this black island nation with an African genetic heritage, particular emphasis is placed on generous hips and hindquarters, a condition known as steatopygia. A 1993 study conducted in rural Jamaica associated thinness with sadness.
There is a growing pill market in Jamaica which caters to young women desiring to gain weight.
Similarly in the African nation of Mauritania, thin women visit fat farms routinely to take antihistamines and animal steroids to induce appetite. Exercise is frowned upon and women are frequently divorced if they become too thin.
Young Mauritanian girls “are brutally force-fed a diet of up to 16 000 calories a day — more than four times that of a male bodybuilder — to prepare them for marriage,” Marie Claire reported.
Tonga actually is the fattest country in the world, according to new global obesity survey published by the journal Lancet. Up to 40 percent of the population is thought to have type 2 diabetes and life expectancy is falling. One of the main causes is a cheap, fatty kind of meat – mutton flaps – imported from New Zealand, not racism.
Scientists typically measure obesity based on body mass index, or BMI, a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A BMI from 19 to 25 is considered healthy, 25 to 30 is overweight, and over 30 is obese.
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