While the World Health Organization defines obesity as a Body Mass Index (BMI) equal to or exceeding 30 kg/m2, obesity is more commonly referred to as the product of energy imbalance. When an individual’s energy intake exceeds his or her expenditure, excess energy is deposited in fat storage cells known as adipocytes. However, as these cells reach their storage capacity, they begin to malfunction, resulting in metabolic dysfunction and deposition of fat throughout the body, imposing disproportionate stress on vital organs. Consequently, excessive weight gain is associated with a number of medical conditions such as obesity, hypertension, renal disease, and diabetes mellitus 2, to name a few.
Since 1998, obesity has been increasing in prevalence among men and women from all backgrounds (Hales). However, the obesity epidemic has disproportionately plagued the African-American female population, with 54.8% of non-Hispanic black women qualifying as clinically obese. While the pervasiveness of obesity among this demographic may be due to genetic susceptibility, socioeconomic inequity between ethnicities likely plays a more prominent role in this disparity. Many feel that socioeconomic inequity in America has the most significant impact on the disparity in obesity.
With the average African American family earning one dollar for every two dollars the white American household earns (SOO), African Americans have the highest poverty rate out of any demographic at 27.4% (census). However, this inequity strikes far beyond economic status, limiting the availability of resources and access to health education in these impoverished neighborhoods inhabited by minority populations. With only 8% of African Americans living in the vicinity of one or more supermarkets (SOO), predominantly black neighborhoods have the most limited access to nutrition options. Subsequently, these African American families of lower income, resort to the inexpensive, easily accessible foods of high caloric density. Where you live can impact your weight and longevity in more ways than one.
By: Sophie Kalser – University of Denver Student