Black men who attend church services frequently are nearly twice as likely to be obese than those who never attend services, according to a study by Duke University researchers.
The study, “Investigating Denominational and Church Attendance Differences in Obesity and Diabetes in Black Christian Men and Women,” from Duke’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center for Social Equity, also suggested that the development of obesity in black men highly engaged in church life could be influenced by their social networks.
Social networks in this case refers to a “web” of relationships among individuals.
A lower prevalence of diabetes among Catholics and Presbyterians was also noted when compared to groups such as Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists and other Protestant groups. This discrepancy, however, might have been impacted by a slight difference in the age group of the subjects studied.
Researchers say these key findings now need to be factored into faith-based health promotions since obesity increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The study was conducted using data from the National Survey of American Life to investigate the correlation between the faith traditions and health outcomes for more than 4,300 African American and Afro-Caribbean Christians.
“Our analysis of NSAL data found no denominational differences in obesity, but did observe an interaction between gender and the frequency of religious service attendance that greatly increased the likelihood of obesity in men, but not women,” lead author of the study, Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, and her colleagues wrote.
The associate director of research and director of the health equity working group at the Cook Center, who is also an assistant professor of general internal medicine, further wrote with her colleagues that “church engagement is an important factor in obesity for black men.”
“Concerning diabetes, lower odds emerged among Presbyterians and Catholics compared to Baptists. No interaction between gender and religious service attendance was observed for this outcome. This finding indicates that the odds of diabetes do vary between denominations within the black church and communicate the importance of considering denomination in health promotion and prevention efforts that target blacks,” the researchers said.
While diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans in general, researchers note that among blacks alone, it is the fifth. And while one third of all American men and women have been classified as obese, among African Americans alone that rate is 48.4%, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey says.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair