Newswise — After menopause, non-Hispanic Black women are more likely to experience weight gain than non-Hispanic white women, researchers at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging have found. The results of their study were published March 1 in the medical journal PLOS ONE. 

Working in collaboration with colleagues at other leading research institutions, the Rush investigators set out to determine how weight status (a person’s weight classification using standard measurements) contributes to differences in postmenopausal weight gain among non-Hispanic Black women and non-Hispanic white women. 

The study included data about 70,750 white and Black postmenopausal women, which was obtained from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, a long-term national health study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Body mass index at baseline was used to classify women as being a normal weight, overweight, or obese class I, II or III.

“When we examined our findings within these categories of baseline weight status, non-Hispanic Black postmenopausal women who were normal weight at baseline were the most likely to gain weight in both crude and adjusted models,” explains Christopher Ford, PhD, a researcher with the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging and lead author of the study. “This finding suggests that efforts to reduce the disparity in postmenopausal weight gain in non-Hispanic Blacks and non-Hispanic Whites should focus on preventing excess weight gain in non-Hispanic Black women who are normal weight at baseline.”

The study found that Black women were more than 50% likely to experience a weight gain ≥10% than white women. It’s findings also suggested the overall higher risk of weight gain was not due to differences in weight status alone, but rather due to other factors, including sociocultural and socioeconomic differences in addition to individual biological differences. 

It explains that Black women are more likely than white women to experience lower socioeconomic positioning. This disparity can lead to a number of environmental factors contributing to weight gain, such as little access to healthy food options, health care or areas for exercise.

These findings led the researchers to conclude that efforts should be made to reduce racial disparities in obesity, which will require a focus on preventing excess weight gain in Black women at earlier life stages, particularly those younger than age 40.

“Prior studies have not looked at racial disparities in postmenopausal weight gain in Black and white women,” says Ford. “Although excess risk of weight gain in Black women relative to white women has been observed in younger women, this may be the first study to look at racial disparities in postmenopausal weight gain.”

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