MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity becomes more common
as successive generations of Mexican-American teens turn their
backs on the eating habits of their native country, according to a
The analysis of nearly 2,300 Mexican-Americans aged 12 to 19 who
took part in the 1999-2004 U.S. National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey found that those born into second- and
third-generation families were more likely to be obese than those
who weren't born in the United States (first generation).
Compared to first-generation Mexican-American youth,
second-generation youth were 2.5 times more likely to be obese and
third-generation youth were twice as likely to be obese, the
University of South Carolina researchers found.
The study was published in the February issue of the
Journal of Nutrition.
Second- and third-generation Mexican-American youth have diets
high in saturated fat and sodium and they consume large amounts of
sweetened beverages. Their consumption of fruits, vegetables,
grains, meat and beans was lower than first-generation
The researchers said a typical Mexican diet includes corn,
beans, meat such as pork and fish, fruits such as pineapple and
papaya, and vegetables such as squash and avocado.
"Mexican-American children are disproportionately affected by obesity. This has serious public health consequences because Mexican-Americans are the fastest growing segment of the population. They are a very important population to study," study lead author Jihong Liu said in a university news release.
She noted that many immigrant families can't afford to buy
fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, which are more
expensive than less healthy foods.
"Our findings also suggest that policies and programs should be in place to help immigrants protect their traditional dietary practices such as a high consumption of fruit, vegetables, and bread while they assimilate to the American culture and society," Liu said. "Future studies should continue to examine the barriers that Mexican-American adolescents encounter in maintaining their native diet and identify strategies to address those barriers."
Nemours has more on
teens' nutritional needs.