Obesity and body fat distribution: ethnic differences and the role of socio-economic status

Obes Facts. 2011;4(1):53-60. doi: 10.1159/000324555. Epub 2011 Feb 16.


Objective: This study investigates differences in overweight and body fat distribution between Turkish and Moroccan migrants and the ethnic Dutch population, and the contribution of socio-economic status to their higher obesity prevalence.

Methods: Data were collected as part of a general health survey, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2004). From 1,285 adults information on physical and psychological health, lifestyle and demographic background was obtained through health interviews. In a physical examination body height and weight as well as waist and hip circumference were measured.

Results: Overweight was more common among Turkish migrants and Moroccan migrant women as compared to their Dutch counterparts. Obesity prevalence rates were more than twice as high among Turkish (39.6%) and Moroccan (39.1%) women than among Dutch women (16.5%). Controlling for level of education and unemployment attenuated ethnic differences in overweight. Abdominal obesity was more common among Turkish and Moroccan than among Dutch women. After controlling for BMI, migrant men had a relatively low waist circumference compared to Dutch men.

Conclusion: Overweight is relatively common among Turkish and Moroccan migrants, especially women. Education and employment are relevant in explaining ethnic differences in overweight. Compared to Dutch men, migrant men seem to have a more favourable fat distribution with less abdominal fat.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morocco / epidemiology
  • Netherlands / ethnology
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / ethnology
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Turkey / epidemiology
  • Waist-Hip Ratio
  • Young Adult