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New Data Reveal Ethnicity May Play Role in Weight Loss Decisions

NEW ORLEANS and PITTSBURGH, Oct. 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- A new analysis of a landmark weight loss survey suggests that Hispanics and African Americans are more likely than whites to use unproven dietary supplements for weight loss. The data, presented today at the 2007 Annual Scientific Meeting of NAASO, The Obesity Society, adds to the growing body of research that more awareness about recommended weight loss treatments and the associated health risks of overweight and obesity is needed among these populations.

The new data shows that Hispanics and African Americans are less likely to use commercial weight loss programs -- defined as organized programs where clients attend regular meetings either in person or online -- and more likely to exercise and use dietary supplements for weight loss, such as herbs or plant extracts, as compared to whites. This finding is important because in contrast with prescription and OTC medications, dietary supplements generally do not require FDA evaluation and approval for safety or efficacy before they are marketed. Most people are unaware that most OTC products currently marketed for weight loss are not subject to the same regulations as FDA- approved drugs.

"The rates of obesity among African Americans and Hispanic groups in the U.S. tend to be higher than obesity rates among whites," said Adam Gilden Tsai, M.D., Medical Director, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "There are a variety of diseases associated with being obese or overweight and it is important that individuals use evidence-based treatments for weight loss."

The new subgroup analysis was based on a landmark telephone survey of 3,500 U.S. adults conducted in 2005-2006. The results suggest that while concern about weight was similar across all groups, whites were more likely than African Americans (p=0.0056) or Hispanics (p=0.0014) to have used a commercial program and less likely than African-Americans (p<0.0001) or Hispanics (p=0.0077) to have used OTC supplements for weight loss. Data showed no differences between ethnic groups in the use of prescription medications or medically supervised programs. These associations remained significant after controlling for socioeconomic status, age, gender; self- perceived weight and beliefs about efficacy of supplements.

Researchers also noted that other factors may contribute to ethnic differences in reported use of treatments including differences in preference, specific knowledge of weight loss options and supplement advertising targeted to ethnic minorities.

"We need to be proactive in educating all Americans about realistic expectations when it comes to weight loss and providing them with the tools that work," said Valentine J. Burroughs, M.D., MBA, Associate Professor of Medicine Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and a member of the Board of Trustees, National Medical Association.

About Overweight and Obesity

Currently, approximately 65 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to the National Institutes of Health. Research suggests that overweight individuals appear to be on the pathway to obesity. Overweight and obesity are associated with an increased risk of developing health problems such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Factors that can contribute to overweight include an abundance of high-calorie foods, low levels of physical activity, behavior, environment, and genetics. Multiple studies have shown that a modest reduction in weight improves health outcomes significantly in overweight or obese patients.

About the Survey

The initial survey, which was the source of this analysis, was conducted between November 18, 2005 and January 10, 2006, with a hiatus over the holidays, by The Center for Survey Research & Analysis (CSRA) at the University of Connecticut, a non-partisan, non-profit survey research facility dedicated to the study of public opinion.

Using random digit-dialing, 64,025 telephone numbers were dialed and 12,599 households were reached. A sample of 3,500 people completed the in-depth telephone interview for a response rate of 28 percent. The maximum expected sampling error associated with a sample of this size would be 1.66 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The survey was funded by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

SOURCE GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare
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