Racial/Ethnic Differences in Weight-Loss Strategies among US Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-2012

Published:March 15, 2017DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2017.01.025



      Dieting, exercising, and seeking professional help have been associated with intentional weight loss among adults.


      This study examined the use of diet (eg, ate less, ate less fat, or switched to low-calorie foods), exercise, diet and exercise, and professional help (eg, weight-loss program or prescribed diet pills) for weight loss among non-Hispanic whites, Mexican Americans, and non-Hispanic blacks.


      Cross-sectional data from the 2007-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were used.


      Males and females (n=9,046) aged 20 to 65 years were included.

      Main outcome measure

      The weight history questionnaire assessed weight-loss attempts and use of weight-loss strategies in the past year.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Multivariate logistic regression models were used to estimate associations of race/ethnicity with strategies to lose weight. Models controlled for age, sex, education, and body mass index. In fully adjusted models, interactions of race/ethnicity by sex were tested.


      Lower proportions of Mexican Americans (35%) and non-Hispanic blacks (35%) than non-Hispanic whites (39%) reported trying to lose weight. Among those who tried to lose weight, non-Hispanic blacks were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to use diet (odds ratio [OR] 0.78, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.90) or exercise (OR 0.83, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.99) for weight loss. Mexican Americans (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.95) and non-Hispanic blacks (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.52 to 0.95) were also less likely than non-Hispanic whites to use professional help for weight loss. The relationships between race/ethnicity and weight-loss strategy were stronger for females than males.


      Targeted efforts are needed to address racial/ethnic disparities in weight-loss attempts and use of recommended strategies especially among females.


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      B. Marquez is assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California San Diego, La Jolla.


      R. Murillo is assistant professor, Department of Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences, University of Houston, Houston, TX.