Weight loss and African–American women: a systematic review of the behavioural weight loss intervention literature


ML Fitzgibbon, Department of Medicine, M/C 275, Section of Health Promotion Research, Room 558, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1747 West Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60608, USA. E-mail: mlf@uic.edu


The excess burden of obesity among African–American women is well documented. However, the behavioural weight loss intervention literature often does not report results by ethnic group or gender. The purpose of this article is to conduct a systematic review of all behavioural weight loss intervention trials published between 1990 and 2010 that included and reported results separately for African–American women. The criteria for inclusion included (i) participants age ≥18 years; (ii) a behavioural weight loss intervention; (iii) weight as an outcome variable; (iv) inclusion of African–American women; and (v) weight loss results reported separately by ethnicity and gender. The literature search identified 25 studies that met inclusion criteria. Our findings suggest that more intensive randomized behavioural weight loss trials with medically at-risk populations yield better results. Well-designed and more intensive multi-site trials with medically at-risk populations currently offer the most promising results for African–American women. Still, African–American women lose less weight than other subgroups in behavioural weight loss interventions. It is now critical to expand on individual-level approaches and incorporate the biological, social and environmental factors that influence obesity. This will help enable the adoption of healthier behaviours for this group of women disproportionately affected by obesity.