In Those Genes: The Reason Black Men Are Less Likely To Be Obese

African American man smiling with arms foldedThough the obesity epidemic affects people of all backgrounds, experts have long noted that black women face a notably higher risk of being overweight or obese than black men.

Now, a new study has identified genetic factors in black men with a strong West African ancestry that are associated with a lower risk of belly fat. But this apparent benefit doesn’t extend to black women, regardless of their lineage.

“This finding is not entirely novel,” said study lead author Yann Klimentidis, an assistant professor with the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Arizona.

“There is some previously existing evidence that individuals of West African descent tend to have lower levels of visceral, or belly, fat,” he said.

“However, our finding is novel in showing that this protective effect appears to be limited to men,” Klimentidis added, “and thus potentially explaining why there is such a large gender disparity in obesity rates among African-Americans.”