Many young American women fail to recognize recent weight gain, and self-perception of weight gain appears to be significantly influenced by race, ethnicity and birth control methods, according to a new study.
The findings are important because weight gain increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and other obesity-related health problems, said the researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
They surveyed 466 women, average age 25, about their weight and other health measures every six months for three years. Nearly one-third of the women did not recognize weight gains of 4.5 pounds during a six-month period, and nearly one-quarter did not recognize weight gains of 8.8 pounds.
Those most likely to recognize weight gain were black women and those who used the birth control injection depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, or DMPA.
The study appears online and in the March print issue of the Journal of Women’s Health.
“We were surprised to find that race and ethnicity are determinants of accurate recognition of weight gain, predictors that have never before been reported,” lead author Mahbubur Rahman, an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology, said in a university news release.
Further research is needed to explore the link between race, ethnicity and self-perception of weight, he added.
Rahman said the finding that women who use DMPA are more likely to recognize weight gain may be due to the fact that this form of birth control has been widely reported to be associated with weight gain. This may make users of DMPA more likely to monitor their weight.
“In prior studies, we’ve reported that one-quarter of reproductive-age women who are overweight or obese consider themselves to be normal weight. Misperception of actual weight coupled with inaccuracies in self-perception of weight gain is a threat to the success of obesity-prevention programs,” Rahman said. “Changing a health behavior depends on patients understanding susceptibility to a health problem.”