In the world of obesity research, there is currently an extensive body of literature. Among this vast array of literature, there are numerous authors and researchers who have varying opinions about what causes obesity and what methods are best employed to treat it. In an attempt to summarize this extant body of information, a categorical analysis of the pertinent reasons behind obesity must first be considered.
Perhaps of most concern to researchers is the role that race, gender, educational level and socioeconomic status play in the role of developing and maintaining obesity. Several authors (Burke, Savage, Manolio, et. al, 1992; Kuczmarski; 1992 and Burke & Bild, 1996) firmly assert that the identification of the determinants of obesity in childhood is essential because obesity is commonly a disease of the young that follows an individual into adulthood. Once obesity has developed in adults, it is extremely difficult to treat. Consequently, most of the current research on childhood obesity attempts to focus on the possible causes. Burke, Savage, Manolio, et al. (1992) and Kuczmarski (1992) have both concluded that significant racial differences in obesity exist, with black women manifesting a slightly greater prevalence of obesity that white women. Burke and Bild (1996) took this research one step further and concluded that in addition to obesity rates being higher among African American women, they were also significantly higher in less educated participants.
As this arena of research continues to grow, Powers (1992) has identified Hispanic women as having had a significant increase in the occurrence of obesity in the past several years. Powers notes that many researchers feel that this trend in Hispanic obesity is not new. This is because, until recently in most obesity studies, Hispanics were listed categorized as white and specific demographic information concerning nutrition and growth was difficult to obtain. Additionally, several other researchers (Kuczmarski, Flegal, Campbell, et. al., 1994; Rand & Kuldau, 1990; and Wing, 1993) have followed this trend in research and have concluded that as many as one half of all adult African-American and Hispanic women are currently obese.