Women's College Research Institute

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South Asian boys are more likely to be overweight compared to peers

December 2014

Ananya Banerjee, PhDIn Canada, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are more prevalent among South Asian adults than non-South Asian populations. Although being overweight or obese increases an individual’s risk of developing these conditions, not much research has been done to collect data on overweight and obesity in South Asian children.

Now, a new study by Ananya Banerjee, PhD, a kinesiologist at Women’s College Hospital who recently completed a research fellowship at Women’s College Research Institute, is one of the first to shed light on ethnic group differences in overweight children living in Canada.

Her study included more than 700 Toronto students aged 10-12 years old and found that South Asian boys are three times more likely to be overweight compared to their peers. There were no weight differences between girls of different ethnic groups.

The findings were published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

“We were completely surprised to observe that so many South Asian children, especially boys, were overweight,” says Banerjee.  “But our findings also made sense. Similar observations have been made in the UK, and we know that South Asian children are less physically active and that being overweight is not necessarily viewed as a health issue in South Asian cultures.”

The study authors highlight the need for future public health initiatives directed at South Asian populations, particularly children.

“We need to have a multi-level family and school intervention targeting South Asian children that is culturally sensitive and will aim to increase physical activity, reduce sedentary behaviour and reinforce healthier eating,” adds Banerjee.

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