African American women must exercise more or eat less to lose as much weight as caucasian women

When it comes to the battle of the buldge, African American women may not respond as well to the same weight-loss interventions that work with Caucasian women.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that African American women might need to eat less or burn more calories in order to achieve the same results as their white female counterparts.

"At first, it was thought that perhaps the African American women didn't adhere as closely to their calorie prescriptions or that the interventions were not culturally sensitive," said study author James P. DeLany, Ph.D. "But even in research projects that were designed to address those possibilities, the difference in weight loss remained."

Weight loss difference

DeLany and his team wanted to see if there were metabolic reasons behind the weight-loss discrepancy, so they monitored 39 severely obese African American women and 66 Caucasian women who were participating in a six-month weight loss program. The protocol consisted of calorie restriction and increased daily physical activity. The team measured body composition and daily energy expenditure at the beginning and end of the study.

Even though the African American women seemed to follow the diet and exercise program as well as the Caucasian women, they lost about 7 pounds less. They also seemed to have lower resting metabolic rates and expended less daily energy.

Cutting calories might help

The researchers noted that the typical prescription for weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. But for African American women, they concluded, caloric intake might need to be further reduced to achieve the same results.

"We prescribe how many calories are allowed and how much activity is needed during weight loss interventions based on the premise that people of the same weight have similar metabolic rates," Dr. DeLany said. "But to account for their lower metabolic rate, African American women must further reduce the number of calories they eat or use up more of them with exercise in order to lose the same number of pounds in the same time span as a Caucasian woman of the same weight."

The study is published online in the International Journal of Obesity.

Source: University of Pittsburgh

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