Review looks at sexual, gender minority adolescents and obesity risk

In a systematic review of 21 peer-reviewed journal articles, Anne Claire Grammer, a Washington University in St. Louis PhD candidate in psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, and co-authors aimed to determine if sexual and gender minority adolescents are at greater risk for overweight or obesity compared to cisgender, heterosexual youth.

The review, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, noted that overall, sexual and gender minority adolescents were at greater risk for overweight and obesity, though there were important subgroup differences. Specific, cisgender sexual minority males had lower or no additional risk for overweight or obesity, whereas cisgender sexual minority females demonstrated greater risk for overweight and obesity. The data on gender minority youth (i.e., transgender and gender-diverse youth) were mixed.

“These findings indicate that sexual and gender minority adolescents, and in particular, sexual minority females, may be at increased risk for overweight and obesity as they develop. As weight in adolescence tends to track into adulthood and the experience of stigma may exacerbate eating- and weight-related issues, it may be important to intervene early to ensure healthy development among these youths” said senior author Natasha Schvey, assistant professor of medical and clinical psychology at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md.

“This is a group that is known to have health disparities,” said Grammer, who researches childhood obesity prevention and treatment at the Center for Healthy Weight and Wellness, based at the Washington University School of Medicine. “There remains a considerable need for empirical research on weight outcomes in this population and mechanisms that explain these disparities.”

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