View Full Version : %body fat & race ???

04-14-1999, 08:17 PM
My friend swears that African Americans have a lower percent body fat than any other race. Growing up in a school as the minority and my black friends being the majority, I immediately blew this off as a weird generalization. But, she keeps swearing it is true. I have known just as many "weight challenged" black people as white. Also, I have grown up beleiving, and being taught, that there are no differences in the races except appearance. So,I do not understand how this could be true. Someone please give me some information!!!

tipi :)

04-14-1999, 08:25 PM
Body fat is almost completely due to diet and lifestyle. It's silly generalizations like these that have proven particularly costly to sports and TV commentators.

04-14-1999, 08:44 PM
You can't deny that genetics also plays a role in determining body fat. I'm no biologist, but I know that a family with a history of obesity will likely produce fat children. And this is not simply because they pass their lifestyle onto their kids.

Also, not everyone who is obese eats too much. Some people simply can't burn calories fast enough to counteract the caloric intake necessary for survival.

As to the "race" differences, Darwinian genetics plays a role, or played a role, rather. A lot of Africans, especially in the central countries, are tall, whereas a lot of people in the Europe are short. The bigger Africans would need more food, but if both eat the same amount of food, the shorter Europeans will gain more fat. Also, the climate is different. Perhaps the colder North European air would make fat insulation necessary.

Now, I want to make an important statement. "African American" is not a race. It is a heritage. Race has nothing to do with differences in corporal generalities except for skin, hair, and eye color. You really should have asked if the native heath of your ancestors makes a difference in your body fat. In my opinion, it does.

04-14-1999, 10:28 PM
Boy, maybe I should just ask for my own personal space in the BBQ Pit now, but here goes....

1) There ARE significant & real differences in bone structure between races. Any forensic pathologist can tell the race of a deceased individual by examining only a skeleton, or certain parts thereof.

2) There are also significant differences in how easily fat is accumulated & where it tends to be deposited. Much of this difference is due to the effects of evolutionary pressures such as drought, famine, & seasonal variations in availability of food.

3) However politically incorrect it was for Jimmy the Greek to say so on national TV, there is an element of truth to his assertion that the Africans brought to the US as slaves were not randomly chosen, but selected on the basis of size (fat slaves survived the Atlantic crossing without pampering; thin ones might not) and strength (this was after all a profit-driven enterprise; well-muscled slaves sold for higher prices).

4) While you'll never see this released as official, race played a large part in the Army's decision several years ago to relax body fat standards for women. The Army's method of determining body fat % includes a measurement of hips. Because African-American women tend to have more fat deposited in their buttocks, it turned out that a much higher proportion of African-American women were being kicked out for not meeting standards. By relaxing the standards slightly, the proportions evened out considerably.

Please understand, I am only asserting here that the physical defferences between races extend beyond eye shape & melanin concentration. It includes susceptibility to inherited diseases (sickle cell anemia, diabetes, hemophilia, auto-immune conditions). There was & is still a fair amount of angst in medicine education circles about the propriety of mentioning ethnic background in the formal presentation of a "case" - while mentioning that a patient is African-American clues the audience in to the fact that the patient is more likely to have sickle cell disease or trait, or sarcoidosis, it also may prejudice the audience into suspecting drug abuse, HIV, or other "social diseases".

Anyone got any marshmallows?

Sue from El Paso

04-15-1999, 01:14 AM
I'm no expert, but I agree that the ability to store fat varies among different people. It would seem to me that people living in colder climates would, over time, develop more body fat on average. Eskimos are an example of this. So, in fact African-Americans may indeed have lower average body fat than many other races. However, I don't think that today it makes much difference in the age of central heating and air conditioning. Also, the majority of people don't get as much exercise today as our ancestors did being hunter/gatherers or farmers.

04-15-1999, 01:56 AM
Go see Gr8Kat's post in the Nova thread, before you say something really silly.
Stop looking for differences, and start looking for things in common, please.
Grrr. :)

04-15-1999, 05:27 AM
Hey, no harm meant. To any Eskimos, or any other people, that I offended may I offer my sincere apology.

"And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl proved the strongest man at last"

04-16-1999, 12:42 AM
Uh, John Corn, you have offended a lot of "Eskimo" simply by calling them that. They call themselves "Inuit" and have for centuries. "Eskimo" is a label made up by visitors, though I'm not sure whether Russian or European or other...

In any case, they prefer to be called Inuit.

08-23-1999, 05:54 AM
And hillbillies prefer to be called sons of the soil, but it ain't gonna happen.