Obesity in Pima Indians: large increases among post-World War II birth cohorts

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1993 Dec;92(4):473-9. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330920406.


Several studies have shown secular increases in obesity during the past 35 years, and others have reported increases in dietary fat consumption during the same period. Here we report a dramatic increase in obesity among Pima Indians born after World War II that appears to be associated with increased exposure to Western customs and diet following 1945. We examined the body mass index (BMI = weight in kilograms/height2 in meters) of 1,128 male and 1,372 female Pima Indians aged 15-65 years who were born between 1901 and 1964 and were examined between 1965 and 1990. We found large increases in BMI among Pima Indian men and women in post-World War II birth cohorts (1945 and later). The parallel changes in body mass index, dietary fat, and exposure to Western culture following World War II suggest that culturally mediated changes in diet and level of physical activity associated with modern industrialized society may have led to the large increases in obesity in the Pima Indians and to smaller parallel changes observed worldwide in westernized countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arizona / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Dietary Fats