- People with low-incomes are less likely than high-income people to use recommended weight loss strategies, such as reducing intake of fats and sweets, and exercising.
- Low-income youths are more likely to use weight loss tactics such as fasting or skipping meals than their higher-income peers.
Poorer people of all ages are less likely than wealthier ones to follow recommended strategies for weight loss, finds a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“We found that compared to persons of higher household incomes, both youths and adults of lower household incomes were less likely to use strategies that are consistent with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations,” which include reducing fats and sweets and increasing exercise, said lead author Lisa Kakinami, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University.
In addition, she said, they found that youths from low income homes were more likely than their wealthier peers to use strategies that are inconsistent with the recommendations, including purging, fasting and skipping meals.
The researchers utilized data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2008 on participants age 16 or older, and between 2005 and 2010, on those 8 to 15 years old. The sample comprised 6,035 adults and 3,250 youths from four income categories (under $20,000; $20,000 to $44,999; $45,000 to $74,999; and at or above $75,000).
Compared to the wealthiest adults, the poorest ones, with incomes below $20,000, were 50 percent less likely to exercise when dieting, 42 percent less likely to drink a lot of water, and 25 percent less likely to reduce intake of fats and sweets. Youths in the two lowest income levels were about 2.5 times more likely than the most affluent youth to use multiple weight-loss strategies that are against public health recommendations.
Lack of funds may limit some options for lower-income dieters, wrote the authors; for instance, fees at weight loss groups may be prohibitive. However, poorer peoples’ lower use of other recommended strategies, such as drinking lots of water, can’t be explained by finances. The authors postulated that the numerous stresses of poverty may account for added barriers for lower income people trying to lose weight.
Scott Kahan, M.D., MPH, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington D.C., commented that this the first study he’s seen to “explicitly assess the link between poverty and actual weight loss behaviors.” “The new data suggest that the poorest among us, who are already disproportionately hurt by overweight and obesity, may also be wasting money on unproven and perhaps dangerous weight loss products,” he said.
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American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Contact the editorial office at (858) 457-7292 or eAJPM@ucsd.edu.