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Multiple Origins, Uncertain Destinies: Hispanics and the American Future
FIGURE 5-7 Time trends in overweight among children and adolescents of Mexican origin, 1976-1980 to 1999-2000.
SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics (2003) (see Escarce et al., 2006).
20 percent for girls. The rate of adolescents (ages 12-19) considered overweight more than trebled for both boys (from 8 to 28 percent) and doubled for girls (from 9 to 19 percent) over the same period.89
Those who claim that acculturation contributes to the rise in Hispanic overweight and obesity point to immigrants’ diets, which are richer in fruits and vegetables and lower in fats compared with those of native-born youths, who are more prone to consume high-fat processed and fast foods. Generational differences in diet are mirrored in the prevalence of overweight adolescents, as about one in four first-generation adolescent Hispanics is at risk of being overweight, compared with about one in three second- and third-generation youths.90
Several other differences in the health circumstances of Hispanic youths are worth noting. With the exception of Puerto Ricans, Hispanic youths have low rates of asthma, the major chronic disease of childhood. This health asset is offset by their worse oral health compared with their white peers. Hispanic youths also register higher blood lead levels than white children, which places them at greater risk for the adverse effects of lead poisoning on cognitive development.91