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Gender differences in body mass index in rural India are determined by socio-economic factors and lifestyle

Barker, Mary, Chorghade, Ginny, Crozier, Sarah, Leary, Sam and Fall, Caroline (2006) Gender differences in body mass index in rural India are determined by socio-economic factors and lifestyle Journal of Nutrition, 136, pp. 3062-3068.

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A survey of the nutritional status of women in 6 villages of the Pune district of Maharashtra, India, found young women to have a significantly lower BMI than their male peers. The purpose of this study was to identify social and economic factors associated with this difference in thinness and to explore the behavior in men and women that might underlie these associations. We compared men and women in 90 families in this part of Maharashtra by taking measurements of the height and weight of the married couple of child-bearing age in each family and assessing their social and economic details, fasting practices, and oil consumption. In this agricultural community, women were thinner in joint land-owning families, where the main occupation was farming, than those in nonfarming families. This was not true of men in this type of family. Men in "cash-rich" families had higher BMI than men in families without this characteristic. There was no corresponding difference in women's BMI. We then examined the lifestyles of men and women in a subset of 45 of these families. Women were more likely to work full time in farming than men, to carry the burden of all household chores, to have less sleep, and to eat less food away from home than men. Women fasted more frequently and more strictly than men. Despite identifying significant differences in behavior between men and women in the same household, we did not find a direct link between behavior and BMI. We conclude that being married into a farming family is an important factor in determining the thinness of a woman in rural Maharashtra.

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Published date: December 2006


Local EPrints ID: 60893
ISSN: 0022-3166
PURE UUID: cdfdd34b-7be9-4263-bab3-890a31bdcc31
ORCID for Mary Barker: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 23 Sep 2008
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 14:23

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Author: Mary Barker ORCID iD
Author: Ginny Chorghade
Author: Sarah Crozier
Author: Sam Leary
Author: Caroline Fall

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