Weight Loss Hurdle for Black Women?
Scientists Spot Difference in Belly Fat of Black and White Obese Women
WebMD News Archive
May 11, 2006 -- Scientists have come up with a new clue about why weight
loss may be particularly hard for obese black women.
The clue lies in the belly fat of the 14 extremely obese black women studied
by Hisham Barakat, PhD, and colleagues. Barakat works in the medicine
department of East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.
Past studies have shown that "obese African-American women lose less
weight and at a slower rate than Caucasian women do across a variety of
treatments including conservative interventions, very low calorie intake, and
surgery," Barakat's team writes in The Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Of course, those findings are generalizations, not an iron-clad rule.
Age and education level don't seem to totally account for that weight loss
gap, the researchers note. So Barakat and colleagues looked at another possible
Checking Belly Fat
The researchers studied 14 white women and 14 black women. All of the women
were very obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of
more than 40. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.
The women in Barakat's study had come to East Carolina University's surgery
department for gastric bypass surgery. With the women's permission, doctors
took fat samples from the women during surgery.
Some of that fat came from just below the women's skin. Other fat came from
deep inside the abdominal region.
The scientists were especially interested in certain cellular receptors in
the women's fat tissue. Those receptors act as docks for a chemical called
adenosine and curb fat breakdown.
Belly Fat Clue
Barakat and colleagues found that the obese black women had more adenosine
receptors in their deep abdominal fat than the obese white women.
The same wasn't true of fat tissue taken from just below the women's
The researchers note that their findings don't totally explain why weight
loss may be harder for obese black women than for obese white women. However,
they write that the results "shed light on potential causes behind the
lesser and slower rate of weight lose of obese [African-American]
"These findings might be helpful in designing new strategies for the
control and prevention of obesity in
[African-American women] and other women as well," write Barakat and