Purpose: To determine whether there are racial differences in the frequency with which black and white girls engaged in eating practices commonly targeted for modification in weight reduction programs.
Methods: This is part of the NHLBI Growth and Health Study, a longitudinal study of preadolescent girls designed to examine the factors associated with development of obesity, and its later effects on cardiovascular risk factors. Black and white girls ages 9-10 years at entry (n = 2,379) were recruited at three clinical sites. Racial differences were examined in 11 "weight-related" eating practices such as eating with TV, eating while doing homework, and skipping meals. Multiple logistic regression analyses were then conducted for each of the dependent variables.
Results: Black girls were more than twice as likely as white girls to frequently engage in the targeted weight-related eating practices. The odds of a study girl frequently engaging in most of these eating practices decreased with an increase in parents' income and education level. However, even when controlling for socioeconomic and demographic effects, black girls remained more likely to engage in these eating practices than white girls. For most of the behaviors, girls who frequently practiced a behavior had higher energy intakes compared to those who practiced it infrequently.
Conclusions: The finding that black girls at an early age more frequently engage in eating practices associated with weight gain may have significant implications for obesity development. For both young black and white girls, early education efforts may be necessary in helping develop good eating habits. Since it appears that black girls have a higher risk of developing adverse weight-related eating practices, culturally appropriate education materials may be required.