Addressing Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity Among Latino Youth

Latino youth are more likely to be overweight or obese than their White peers; 38 percent of Latino youth ages 2-19 in the U.S. are overweight and almost 21 percent are obese.

A number of complex factors contribute to the higher rates of overweight and obesity among this population, including environmental, socioeconomic and cultural factors. Convenience stores and fast-food restaurants in Latino communities provide easy access to unhealthy food and beverage choices and healthy options are not always available. This imbalance is further driven by the fact that calories tend to be cheaper in unhealthy foods than in healthy ones, low rates of physical activity also contribute to this imbalance.

This research examines the environmental, socioeconomic and cultural factors that influence nutrition, overweight and obesity among Latino youth.

Key Findings:

  • Food and beverage purchases made in corner stores located near schools significantly contribute to calorie intake among children in urban areas; 350 additional calories, on average.
  • Overweight or obesity was stronger for Latino children than for White or Black children living in a household with income below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Compared with the national average (14.7%), food insecurity is substantially higher in Latino households (26.9%) and in households with lower incomes (39.7%).
  • "Empty" calories from solid fat and added sugars constitute a large proportion of total calories consumed by Mexican-American and other Latino children. Of the 1,930 calories consumed per day on average, solid fats accounted for 430 calories (22.3%) and added sugars accounted for 351 calories (18.2%).

These researchers suggest several areas for future research to identify links between nutrition, physical activity, overweight and obesity among Latino youth. These include the influence of genes; metabolism; socioeconomic status; behaviors; the social and cultural environments; and government policies affecting the price and availability of foods.