Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Anna Zamora-Kapoor Reviews Obesity Risk Factors for American Indians and Alaska Natives

Posted: 5/28/2019 (CSDE Research)

CSDE Affiliate Anna Zamora-Kapoor, Assistant Research Professor at the Initiative for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH), Washington State University, conducted a systematic review of the literature on obesity risk factors for American Indians and Alaska Natives, soon to be published in Public Health.

Zamora-Kapoor searched PubMed titles and abstracts with combinations of relevant terms, limiting the review to articles with empirically testable claims about a variable associated with obesity, measuring obesity as a dependent variable, and providing data specific to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The final sample included 31 articles and showed that risk factors varied by age. In infants, low birth weight, early termination of breastfeeding, and high maternal body mass index and maternal diabetes increased the risk of childhood obesity. In children and adolescents, parental obesity, sedentary behaviors, and limited access to fruits and vegetables were associated with obesity. In adulthood, sedentary behaviors, diets high in fats and carbohydrates, stress, verbal abuse in childhood, and the belief that health cannot be controlled were associated with obesity.

Zamora-Kapoor found three limitations in extant studies: they do not apply a life course perspective, they lack nationally representative data and have limited knowledge of the resilience, resistance and resourcefulness of American Indians and Alaska Natives. She defends that future studies avoiding these shortcomings are necessary to inform interventions to reduce the prevalence of obesity in American Indians and Alaska Natives across the life course.