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Obesity and Immigration Among Latina Women

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Several studies have shown a positive association between acculturation and obesity in Hispanics. We sought to examine the association in a sample of urban Hispanic women. Using data collected in the Chicago Breast Health Project, we used logistic regression to examine the association of obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) with language acculturation and years in the US in a sample of 388 Hispanic women. Women self-reported the number of years they had lived in the US (mean 17.6) as well as their preferred language across several domains, which was used to calculate a language acculturation score. Nearly all the women (98%) were born outside the US with the majority (65%) born in Mexico and the majority of women (69%) had low language acculturation, i.e., answered “only Spanish” in every domain. Over half of the women were obese (56%). In multivariable analysis, odds of obesity was twice as high among women living in the US for greater than 20 years compared to those in the US for 10 years or less (OR/year = 2.07, 95% CI 1.25–3.42). In contrast, low language acculturation was not associated with odds of obesity (OR = 1.14, 95% CI 0.70–1.86). While greater years in the US increased odds of obesity among Hispanic women, no association of obesity with language acculturation was found. These results suggest that mechanisms other than language contribute to the immigration effect.

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At the time of the analysis, Dr. Wolin was with the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University and was supported by NCI grant R25 CA100600-01A1. This research was supported by the Northwestern University SPORE in Breast Cancer NCI P50 CA89018, the Avon Foundation, and the Carol Gollob Breast Cancer Foundation. We would also like to thank the health care providers and women who participated in this project.

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Correspondence to Kathleen Y. Wolin.

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Wolin, K.Y., Colangelo, L.A., Chiu, B.CH. et al. Obesity and Immigration Among Latina Women. J Immigrant Minority Health 11, 428–431 (2009).

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