Ethnic differences in overweight and obesity in early adolescence in the MRC DASH study: the role of adolescent and parental lifestyle

Int J Epidemiol. 2008 Feb;37(1):162-72. doi: 10.1093/ije/dym252. Epub 2008 Jan 19.


Background: Ethnicity is a consistent correlate of excess weight in youth. We examine the influence of lifestyles on ethnic differences in excess weight in early adolescence in the UK.

Method: Data were collected from 6599 pupils, aged 11-13 years in 51 schools, on dietary practices and physical activity, parental smoking and overweight, and on overweight and obesity (using International Obesity Task Force criteria).

Results: Skipping breakfast [girls odds ratio (OR) 1.74, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.30-2.34; boys OR 2.06; CI 1.57-2.70], maternal smoking (girls OR 2.04, CI 1.49-2.79; boys OR 1.63, CI 1.21-2.21) and maternal overweight (girls OR 2.01, CI 1.29-3.13; boys OR 2.47, CI 1.63-3.73) were associated with obesity. Skipping breakfast, more common among girls, was associated with other poor dietary practices. Compared with White UK peers, Black Caribbeans (girls OR 1.62, CI 1.24-2.12; boys OR 1.49, CI 1.15-1.95) and Black Africans (girls OR 1.96, CI 1.52-2.53; boys OR 2.50, CI 1.92-3.27) were more likely to skip breakfast and engage in other poor dietary practices, and Indians were least likely. White Other boys reported more maternal smoking (OR 1.37, CI 1.03-1.82). All these reports were more common among those born in the UK than those born elsewhere. Black Caribbean girls were more likely to be overweight (OR 1.38, CI 1.02-1.87) and obese (OR 1.65, CI 1.05-2.58), Black African girls to be overweight (OR 1.35, CI 1.02-1.79) and White Other boys to be overweight (OR 1.37, CI 1.00-1.88) and obese (OR 1.86, CI 1.15-3.00). Adverse dietary habits and being born in the UK contributed to these patterns.

Conclusion: These findings signal a potential exacerbating effect on ethnic differences in obesity if adverse dietary habits persist. Combined adolescent and parent-focused interventions should be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / ethnology*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting / ethnology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology