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Study: Mexican-American youth add pounds as they lose native eating habits

According to the study, adolescents from second and third generations have diets high in saturated fat and sodium, and they consume high levels of sweetened beverages. Their consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and beans was lower than first-generation Mexican-American youth.

A typical Mexican diet includes corn, beans, meat such as pork and fish, fruits, including pineapple and papaya and vegetables such as squash and avocado.

“Our findings suggest that Mexican-American adolescents face challenges in terms of poorer diet and excessive weight gain associated with their immigration and acculturation experience,” said Liu, a researcher in the Arnold School’s department of epidemiology and biostatistics. “This verified what we expected: the greater the acculturation that a young person has experienced, the less healthy their diet.”

The implication of the study is that young people who are more likely to be acculturated need help and support to maintain a healthy diet, she said.

Although the study did not address the causes, Liu said many immigrant families have a lower socioeconomic status and therefore cannot afford to buy fruits and vegetables and healthier foods, which are more expensive.

“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.”

Arnold School researchers Dr. Edward Frongillo, Dr. Janice Probst, and Mr. Yong Chu, a doctoral candidate, contributed to the study, which was supported by the Maternal and Child Health Research Program of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

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Posted: 02/13/12 @ 12:30 PM | Updated: 02/13/12 @ 12:22 PM | Permalink

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