Office of Epidemiology and Research, Division of Research

Advancing Applied MCH Research

(SDAS) The Influences of Immigrant Status and Acculturation on Obesity among US Mexican American Children and Adolescents

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Project Number: R40 MC 17167-01
Grantee: University of South Carolina Research Foundation
Department/Center: Epidemiology and Biostatistics/Arnold School of Public Health
Project Date: 02/1/2010

Final Report

(SDAS) The Influences of Immigrant Status and Acculturation on Obesity among US Mexican American Children and Adolescents Final Report (PDF) Exit Disclaimer

Principal Investigator

Jihong Liu, Sc.D.
Assistant Professor
800 Sumter Street STE 205
Columbia, SC  29208
Phone: (803)777-6854


  • Middle Childhood (6-11 years)
  • Adolescence (12-18 years)


  • Hispanic/Latino


Mexican American children, the largest and fasting growing ethnic minority group, are disproportionately affected by the epidemic of childhood obesity. A large proportion of Mexican Americans are immigrants from Mexico where the rising prevalence of obesity is also a major public health concern. The fact that younger age at arrival in the US is associated with a higher risk of obesity than later age at arrival indicates that obesity prevention among young immigrants should be a priority. Data on obesity disparities by immigration status and level of acculturation among children and adolescents are very limited. Studies that also take into consideration the obesity-related risk behaviors such as diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviors in the development of obesity in pediatric population are even rarer. The overall objective of the proposed study is to examine how immigration status (measured by place of birth, length of residence in the US, age at immigration) and the acculturation process (measured by language use, generation status) are associated with obesity and obesity-related behaviors among Mexican American children and adolescents aged 6-19 years old. Data will be drawn from the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative sample of the US non-institutionalized population. NHANES measured height and weight and obtained parent and/or child reports of various immigration and acculturation measures, 24-hour dietary recalls, and information on physical activity and sedentary behaviors. The study will aim to understand the separate and joint influences of immigration status and levels of acculturation on: 1) diet intake and dietary patterns; 2) physical activity and sedentary behaviors; and 3) body weight and obesity, and the potential mediating effects of diet, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors on these relationships. Linear regression models will be used for continuous outcomes including the diet-related outcomes (aim 1) and body mass index z-scores (aim 3). Logistic regression will be run for the binary outcomes of skipping breakfast (aim 1), physical activity, sedentary behaviors (aim 2), and obesity (aim 3). Furthermore, quantile regression models will be applied to the body mass index Z-scores (aim 3) to provide a complete understanding of the associations. The proposed study addresses the MCHB goal of eliminating health barriers and disparities and supports Strategic Research Issues II, MCH services and systems of care efforts to eliminate health disparities, and IV, promoting the healthy development of MCH populations. This study also addresses the Healthy People 2010 leading health indicators of obesity and physical activity. The findings from the study will provide relevant and culturally appropriate information for intervention planning, program assessment, and resource allocation for Mexican American children and adolescents in the US.


Listed is descending order by year published.

Liu JH, Chu YH, Frongillo EA, Probst JC. Generation and acculturation status are associated with dietary intake and body weight in Mexican American adolescents. J Nutr. 2012 Feb;142(2):298-305


Obesity & Weight, Nutrition & Diet, Physical Activity, Immigrant Populations, Health Disparities

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