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Objectives: To examine racial/ethnic differences in the dietary behaviors of overweight or obese adults using the 2007 California Health Interview Survey.

Method: Data were obtained from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey, a population-based sample of noninstitutionalized adults in California. The sample included 26,721 adults aged 18 years and older whose body mass index status indicated that they were overweight or obese (body mass index ≥ 25), with 19,264 non-Hispanic White; 1,749 African American/Black; 1,616 Asian/Pacific Islander; and 4,092 Latino respondents. Respondents were compared with regard to consumption of five categories of food: fruits, vegetables, French fries, soft drinks, and fast-food. Multivariable regression analyses were conducted to examine racial/ethnic differences in dietary behaviors, with and without adjustment for age, gender, nativity, marital status, education, income, and food insecurity.

Results: The findings suggested there were significant racial/ethnic differences in food preferences and that English proficiency, in part, explained some of these differences. Overweight/obese African American/Black respondents reported eating fruit (aBeta = -0.73, [95% confidence interval = -1.29, -0.17]) and vegetables (aBeta = -0.71 [-1.18, -0.24]) fewer times per day and fast-food (aBeta = 0.21, [0.04, 0.38]) more times per day compared with their non-Hispanic White counterparts. Irrespective of language proficiency, Asian/Pacific Islanders reported eating significantly less fruit compared with non-Hispanic Whites. Limited English proficient (LEP) Asian/Pacific Islanders were found to eat vegetables (aBeta = 1.41, [0.47, 2.63]) more times per day than non-Hispanic Whites, in contrast to English proficient Asian/Pacific Islanders who were found to eat vegetables (aBeta = -0.64, [-1.11, -0.18]) fewer times per day compared with non-Hispanic Whites. Both LEP and English proficient Latinos ate vegetables less often and drank soft drinks and ate fast-food more often than non-Hispanic Whites.

Conclusions: Efforts to intervene with individuals who are overweight or obese must include culturally and linguistically tailored interventions that consider how individuals’ dietary behaviors are influenced by their racial/ethnic backgrounds.