Racial, ethnic, and gender differences in obesity and body fat distribution: An All of Us Research Program demonstration project

PLoS One. 2021 Aug 6;16(8):e0255583. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0255583. eCollection 2021.


Differences in obesity and body fat distribution across gender and race/ethnicity have been extensively described. We sought to replicate these differences and evaluate newly emerging data from the All of Us Research Program (AoU). We compared body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio from the baseline physical examination, and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) from the electronic health record in up to 88,195 Non-Hispanic White (NHW), 40,770 Non-Hispanic Black (NHB), 35,640 Hispanic, and 5,648 Asian participants. We compared AoU sociodemographic variable distribution to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data and applied the pseudo-weighting method for adjusting selection biases of AoU recruitment. Our findings replicate previous observations with respect to gender differences in BMI. In particular, we replicate the large gender disparity in obesity rates among NHB participants, in which obesity and mean BMI are much higher in NHB women than NHB men (33.34 kg/m2 versus 28.40 kg/m2 respectively; p<2.22x10-308). The overall age-adjusted obesity prevalence in AoU participants is similar overall but lower than the prevalence found in NHANES for NHW participants. ALT was higher in men than women, and lower among NHB participants compared to other racial/ethnic groups, consistent with previous findings. Our data suggest consistency of AoU with national averages related to obesity and suggest this resource is likely to be a major source of scientific inquiry and discovery in diverse populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Patient Care Planning / organization & administration*
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Waist Circumference
  • Young Adult