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.