New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

To Combat Obesity among US Latina Immigrants, Cultural Food Patterns Must be Acknowledged, says NYU College of Nursing Research

July 31, 2014
N-388 2013-14

Current qualitative studies on eating behavior do a poor job at differentiating Latino populations by country of origin

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States, comprising 16.7% of the population.  Approximately one-third of Latinos are obese and are 1.2 times as likely to be obese compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

NYU College of Nursing student researcher Lauren Gerchow, BSN, RN, MSN candidate, has sought to identify the factors that contribute to this problem by compiling a systematic review of qualitative studies that focused on food patterns in Latina women recently published in Nursing Research.

“The review focuses on women in particular, because they are usually the primary caretakers, with responsibility for food-related decisions,” said Gerchow.  “We performed this analysis in the hopes of identifying common food patterns across Latino culture and within Latino subcultures, and to inform future research by determining gaps in the existing literature.”

Gerchow encountered several disparities in her review of thirteen studies, through which she was able to outline the complexity surrounding this issue and provide recommendations for future research on this topic.

“A particularly troubling discrepancy found was that the definition of Latino varied considerably between studies, with four even considering Latinos a single ethnic group with no cultural differentiation for analytical purposes,” noted Gerchow. “We found that these purportedly qualitative studies, of which findings are not supposed to be generalizable, were consistently reporting ways their findings could be generalized across Latino populations.”

Gerchow and her team found that despite researchers and providers acknowledging the importance of cultural differences based on country of origin in this population, there was no change in practice or methods of the studies.  Contributing to the need for specification is the fact that food words vary between countries, therefore Latinos may be unable to rely on each other for proper translation when it comes to making informed, healthy decisions.

The immigrant experience pervades every aspect of an immigrant Latina’s life,” said Gerchow, and ultimately influences the dynamics that become barriers and facilitators to healthy food choices. Such barriers include changes in routines and circumstances such as snacking, the availability of fast food, and the cost of healthy foods. Furthermore, socioeconomic status, lack of transportation, and a lack of nutritional knowledge and education, were all found to be barriers to healthy food patterns.”

Gerchow’s study is the first of its kind to address the qualitative literature regarding the food patterns of Latinas living in the United States. The results of her analysis indicate that healthcare providers need to recognize the complex influences behind eating behaviors among immigrant Latinas in order to design effective behavior change and goal-setting programs to support healthy lifestyles.” In order for such a level of recognition to be achieved it is imperative that future studies limit overgeneralization in this population.

“Our study identifies some of the unique similarities in Latina behavior patterns among the diverse ethnic group while encouraging future studies to limit overgeneralization in this population and identifying gaps in the literature, which future research can begin to investigate,” Gerchow concludes.

Researchers and Affiliations: Lauren Gerchow, BSN, RN, is Master of Science in Nursing Student, College of Nursing, New York University; Barbara Tagliaferro, BA, MA, is Research Coordinator, Section on Health Choice, Policy, and Evaluation, School of Medicine, Department of Population Health, New York University. Allison Squires, PhD, RN, is Assistant Professor and Director of International Education, College of Nursing, New York University. Joey Nicholson, MLIS, MPH, is Assistant Curator and Education and Curriculum Librarian, School of Medicine, New York University. Stella M. Savarimuthu, is Medical Student, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, Hempstead, New York. Damara Gutnick, MD, is Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, New York University. Melanie Jay, MD, MS, is Staff Physician and Clinician Investigator, Veterans Affairs Medical Center New York Harbor.

About New York University College of Nursing
NYU College of Nursing is a global leader in nursing education, research, and practice. It offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science and Post-Master’s Certificate Programs, a Doctor of Philosophy in Research Theory and Development, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.  For more information, visit https://nursing.nyu.edu/

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
College of Nursing, Research News, NYUToday-feature, Applied Research

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: Christopher James | (212) 998-6876

to-combat-obesity-among-us-latina-immigrants-cultural-food-patterns-must-be-acknowledged-says-nyu-college-of-nursing-research

Search News



NYU In the News

Entrepreneurship Lab Opens at NYU

Crain’s New York Business covered the opening of the Mark and Debra Leslie Entrepreneurial eLab, which will be the headquarters for NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and all of the University’s programs aimed at promoting innovation and startups.

A Globalizer for N.Y.U. in Abu Dhabi

The New York Times profiled Bill Bragin who will become the first executive artistic director of NYU Abu Dhabi’s new performing arts center.

Think Tank to Ponder a Future for Ballet

The New York Times profiled Jennifer Homans, the director of NYU’s new Center for Ballet and the Arts.

The Brilliant Ten: Jonathan Viventi Builds Devices That Decode Thoughts

Popular Science named Assistant Bioengineering Professor Jonathan Viventi as one of its “brilliant ten” for his research into brain implants that could one day halt epileptic episodes:

Living and Leaving the Dream: Adrian Cardenas’ Journey from the Major Leagues to College

The New York Times ran a feature on Adrian Cardenas, a former major league baseball player who is now studying philosophy and creating writing at NYU.

NYU Footer