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Ethnic differences in body mass index and associated factors of adolescents from minorities in Oslo, Norway: a cross-sectional study

  • BN Kumar (a1), G Holmboe-Ottesen (a1), N Lien (a2) and M Wandel (a2)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1079/PHN2004644
  • Published online: 01 January 2007
Abstract
AbstractObjectives:

To examine ethnic differences in body mass index (BMI), food habits and physical activity, and determine the factors contributing to differences in BMI.

Design and method:

In 2000–2001, 7343 (response rate 88%) 15- and 16-year-old students, enrolled in lower secondary schools in Oslo, participated in the cross-sectional Oslo Health Study. Of these participants, 1719 were defined as ethnic minorities.

Results:

Significant gender and ethnic differences in mean BMI were observed. Of the ethnic minority adolescents, 5.8% were underweight (<5th percentile of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reference distribution) and 9.1% were overweight (>85th percentile of the US CDC/NCHS reference distribution). BMI was not significantly associated with either socio-economic factors or physical activity. Food habits and physical activity differed with ethnicity but not with socio-economic factors. An ordinal regression showed that girls from East Asia (odds ratio (OR) 0.4) and boys from sub-Saharan Africa (OR 0.4) had lower BMI than the Western group. Among girls, higher BMI was associated with less frequent consumption of chocolates and sweets, full-fat milk and breakfast (OR 2.4, 1.7 and 1.7, respectively). Higher BMI, for both boys and girls, was associated with current and past dieting (OR 3.7 and 4.2, respectively).

Conclusions:

Adolescent food habits and physical activity varied by gender and ethnicity but not with socio-economic factors. BMI was associated with ethnicity, gender and food habits, but no significant relationship was observed with socio-economic factors or physical activity. Ethnicity, in addition to gender, should be taken into consideration when studying BMI and associated factors among adolescents.

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*Corresponding author: Email bernadette.kumar@medisin.uio.no
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