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Obesity and Black Women: Special Considerations Related to Genesis and Therapeutic Approaches


Black women in the United States are disproportionately affected by obesity, with almost two-thirds considered obese based on body mass index. Obesity has been directly linked to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in black women. Therefore, understanding contributors to the genesis of obesity in black women is imperative. While biologic differences likely result in varying obesity prevalence across racial/ethnic groups, behaviors such as post-partum weight retention and limited leisure-time physical activity, may especially contribute to obesity in black women. Black women also appear to be particularly susceptible to cultural, psychosocial, and environmental factors that can promote weight gain. Therapeutic interventions are being tailored to specifically address these social determinants of health and to foster lifestyle modification; however, more work is needed to understand barriers to behavior change for black women. Knowledge gaps also remain in identifying mechanisms by which pharmacologic and surgical treatments for obesity modify cardiovascular risk in black women.

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Priscilla Agyemang and Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley.

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Ms. Agyemang and Dr. Powell-Wiley are supported by the Division of Intramural Research of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

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Agyemang, P., Powell-Wiley, T.M. Obesity and Black Women: Special Considerations Related to Genesis and Therapeutic Approaches. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep 7, 378–386 (2013).

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  • Obesity
  • Black women
  • Genetics
  • Behavior
  • Cultural norms
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Environmental factors
  • Lifestyle modification
  • Therapeutics