JOURNAL ARTICLE

Obesity among Arabs and Jews in Israel: a population-based study

Ofra Kalter-Leibovici, Ahmed Atamna, Flora Lubin, Gershon Alpert, Michal Gillon Keren, Havi Murad, Angela Chetrit, Daphna Goffer, Sigal Eilat-Adar, Uri Goldbourt
Israel Medical Association Journal: IMAJ 2007, 9 (7): 525-30
17710784

BACKGROUND: Arabs in Israel have high morbidity and mortality from diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Obesity is a risk factor for both conditions.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the prevalence of obesity (body mass index >30 kg/m2), subjects' knowledge and behaviors, and their reports on practices of health-care professionals regarding body weight among Arabs and Jews.

METHODS: The study participants (n=880) were randomly sampled from the urban population of the Hadera district in Israel. Data on demographic, socioeconomic and lifestyle characteristics; reports on height, current body weight and body weight at the age of 18 years; knowledge and behavior; and health-care professionals' practices with regard to body weight were obtained by interview. Anthropometric measurements were performed subsequently.

RESULTS: Information on BMI was available on 868 participants (49% Arabs, 49% women, median age 46 years). Although the median BMI did not differ significantly between Arabs and Jews at age 18, the prevalence of current obesity was 52% in Arab women compared to 31% in Jewish women (P < 0.001), and 25% in Arab men compared to 23% in Jewish men (P = 0.6). On multivariate analysis, obesity was significantly associated with age, BMI at the age of 18 years, leisure time physical activity and cigarette smoking, but not with ethnicity. Fewer Arabs reported measuring their body weight and Arab women were less frequently advised to maintain an active lifestyle.

CONCLUSIONS: The high prevalence of obesity among Arab women may be explained by lifestyle characteristics. Prevention of obesity in Arabs should be directed at women and should start preferably before adulthood.

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