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Latin American women are at greater risk of suffering cardiovascular and metabolic diseases

A Spanish research study analysed the nutritional status and menstrual characteristics in a sample of native and immigrant Latin American girls. The data showed that immigrant girls have a higher percentage of body fat when they reach reproductive maturity which can be related to suffering cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

An increase in migration has changed Spain’s demographic profile in recent years, enabling researchers to study the micro-adaptive transition of immigrant people. As a result, adolescents have become the most vulnerable population as this is the stage of the main growth and maturing processes.

The start of menstrual cycles (menarche) is one of the pillars of reproductive development and highly sensitive to the environmental context and health of the population. The study showed that immigrant girls experience a greater somatic and morphological change than native girls when passing from a pre-menstrual to a post-menstrual stage.

“Immigrant girls have a higher body mass index and higher body fat percentage than Spanish girls when they reach reproductive maturity, as well as higher truncal fat accumulation, which is related to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases”, Raquel Fernández, the main author of the study, explained to SINC.

The research was carried out in four schools in the Madrid region and analysed 284 girls between 9 and 16 years old, who were assessed over a two-year period. The average age for beginning mental cycles was 12.46 years old for native girls and 12.57 years old for immigrants, all who came from Latin America.

Need for focused health campaigns

After analysing the relationship between the variables, the researchers established two subgroups: Spanish girls with normal weight and regular menstrual cycles, and immigrant girls with excess weight and irregular cycles. According to Raquel Fernández, “these results suggest the need to create health campaigns focused on the adolescent immigrant population in order to adopt healthy lifestyles”.

The aim of the study, the result of work carried out over the last four years by scientists from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) is to get children and young people to adopt healthy lifestyles and provide families with guidance for following preventive lifestyles against the appearance of certain diseases throughout their life.

“Although there are campaigns that highlight the importance of having a balanced diet and adopting a healthy lifestyle, studies such as this show that we are still a long way from getting children and young people to follow these recommendations”, Fernández indicated to SINC.

The special characteristic of this study was the preparation by the authors of a personal report for each of the girls. In addition, fathers and mothers received a summary with their children's measurements, ideal values for their age and sex, and personal recommendations for improving their quality of life.

“Excess weight is still very prevalent at this age and both diet and physical exercise differ from the recommendations, with this characteristic being especially noteworthy in the immigrant population”, the researcher highlighted.

Raquel Fernández del Olmo, Javier Anuncibay, Consuelo Prado. “Maturational profiles and migration in the female adolescent population of Madrid: Is there a need for a new perspective?” Collegium Antropologicum; 32(1):15-19 MAY 2008.

SINC Team | alfa
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