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WEIGHT LOSS: WHY IT'S HARD / CAPSULE

Health by degrees

June 02, 2008|Janet Cromley | Times Staff Writer
  • FIT: The well-educated in the U.S. have a lower average BMI than the less-educated.
FIT: The well-educated in the U.S. have a lower average BMI than the less-educated. (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles…)

When IT comes to a healthy body weight, education matters.

Highly educated men and women in the U.S. have a lower average body mass index than their less-educated counterparts, according to a new comparison of international data. Conversely, highly educated men and women in poor countries where malnutrition is prevalent tend to have a higher BMI than less-educated people.

In short, education appears to confer a healthy buffer against obesity, or malnutrition, depending on the country of origin.

"An implication of the figure is that as incomes grow, so do waistlines, until the population takes into account the costs of these expanding waistlines," says Duncan Thomas, a professor of economics at Duke University, in Durham, N.C., and contributor to the analysis, which was presented in the "Handbook of Development Economics" and released in April. "At that point, it is typically women who are on the vanguard of controlling weight, with the better-educated among them leading the pack. Men appear to follow suit."

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janet.cromley@latimes.com

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