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Birthplace, Language Use, and Body Size among Mexican American Women and Men: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2006

Author: Guendelman, Sylvia
Date Published: 2011

Mexican immigrant status has been associated with decreased obesity, but this pattern may be changing. We draw from 2001-2006 NHANES data on Mexican Americans to examine whether body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference vary by country of birth and among the U.S.-born by language. Among women, U.S.-born Spanish speakers had the highes mean BMI, followed by immigrant women, while U.S.-born English speakers had the lowest mean BMI. Immigrant men had a lower mean BMI than U.S.-born men. These patterns were similar for waist circumference and persisted after adjusting for socioeconomic status (SES) and other covariates. Immigrant women do not appear to be protected against a large body size, compared with immigrant men. Among the U.S.-born, women who retain Spanish are at a higher risk for larger body size than exclusive English speakers. Initiatives targeting obesity should address differentials in body size patterns among immigrant and U.S.-born Mexican American men and women.

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Number of Pages: 16