The association between nutrition transition score and measures of obesity: results from a cross-sectional study among Latina/o immigrants in Baltimore
Studies suggest that US Latinos have a higher prevalence of obesity than White Americans. However, obesity may differ by pre-immigration factors and Latinos’ cultural representations of ideal body image. This paper explores whether country of origin’s stage in the nutrition transition is related to Latino immigrants’ BMI category and self-perception of weight.
Primary data originated from a cross-sectional questionnaire of Latina/o immigrants in Baltimore in 2011. A convenience sample of self-identified Latinos, ≥18 years old, living in Baltimore was recruited from a community-based organization. Data for each country represented in the sample were obtained from the WHO Demographic and Health Surveys and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Each country was scored for its stage in the nutrition transition using a six-point scoring system. Descriptive statistics were conducted to characterize the sample. Bivariate analyses were conducted to examine the relationship between the outcome variables and the predictors. Multivariate logistic regressions were conducted to examine whether a country’s stage in the nutrition transition increased one’s odds of having an obese BMI score (≥30 kg/cm[superscript 2]) and perceiving one’s weight as overweight, while controlling for socio-demographic variables.
The sample (n = 149) consisted of immigrants from 12 Latin American countries. Participants lived in the US for x=10.24 years. About 40% of the sample had BMI ≥30 kg/m[superscript 2] (obese). The longer Latina immigrants’ lived in the US, the less likely their country of origin’s nutrition transition score would increase their odds of having a BMI ≥30 kg/m[superscript 2] (OR = 0.97 p < 0.04). The higher the country of origin’s nutrition transition score, the more likely BMI influenced Latino immigrants’ perception of their weight as above normal (OR = 1.06, p < 0.04). The effect of the nutrition transition score had a stronger effect on females than males.
These results suggest that country of origin’s nutrition transition score and gender affect Latino immigrants’ objective and subjective measures of weight. Future investigation should investigate the relationship between gender and the nutrition transition in Latin America and how the nutrition transition globalizes obesity and weight consciousness.