"It's important to understand these cultural differences and be able to see things from the Latino perspective so we can create successful interventions," she said.
Andrade said that 18- to 20-year-olds are at the perfect age for intervention and education. "In Hispanic culture, young people often become parents in their early to mid-twenties. When women are at healthy weights, they have healthier pregnancies. When a pregnant woman is obese, there are long-term consequences for the baby."
Are same-age U.S. young people more or less likely to have an accurate body image? According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, American teens are even less likely to report their weights correctly.
Very few participants in the Mexican study overestimated their weight, but those who did were most often female, younger, had parents with less education, and watched more television. If a young woman believes she weighs more than she does, she is at risk for developing anorexia or bulimia, the researchers said.
Ideal body image changes with exposure to Western media, they noted. "The curvier female figure once appreciated in Latino culture is being replaced by the ultra-thin ideal promoted by Western advertisers," Teran-Garcia said.
The researchers plan to continue work in identifying genetic predispositions for obesity in the participants, then studying the interaction between those genetic markers and family environment, cultural beliefs, mental and physical health, and whether and how much the students exercise.
"We will be able to follow many of these students for some time. We expect to have an exit interview with at least a third of our study participants when they leave college," Andrade said.
|Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences