Health & Wellness

Addressing Obesity and Its Comorbidities among the Black Community


By Rose Henderson Exclusively for Black Men In

It’s no secret that an obesity epidemic is ravaging the United States. As of 2024, nearly 43% of American adults are obese. Unfortunately, while obesity is present in all demographics, data reveals that the Black community is disproportionately affected. More recently, studies have found that incidences of obesity in the Black population are more common than in other ethnic groups, regardless of a person’s socioeconomic status. On average, Black women are 57% more likely to become obese than women of other races, while Black men are about 41% more likely. Given that obesity is a chronic condition that can trigger and worsen numerous ailments, it’s important to understand how it impacts the Black community and the specific comorbidities it may bring.

Understanding obesity and its roots in the Black community

Contrary to popular belief, obesity is not just a reflection of a person’s diet and exercise. Nor is it an interchangeable term with simply being overweight. For starters, when studying the difference between overweight and obese individuals, there is a distinct difference in the body mass index (BMI). While those who are overweight have a BMI between 25 and 29.9, those who are obese have a BMI of 30 and above. Potentially, some people confuse the two because being overweight is also called “pre-obesity.”

As mentioned above, another important point about obesity that has to be understood is that it is brought on by multiple complex factors. While food and activity levels do play a part, most people’s obesity is also shaped by factors that are harder to control, like genetics, sleep quality, and family history. In line with this, obesity in predominantly African-American neighborhoods has historically been attributed to the lack of health resources, fitness initiatives, and balanced food sources. The same Wiley study cited above also reveals that Black people are also subject to cultural body image pressures that perpetuate obesity as normal or inevitable. Sadly, evidence suggests that Black communities are not just more prone to obesity, but they’re also more vulnerable to more significant comorbidities. Here are some of the most notable obesity comorbidities among the Black populace.

Obesity comorbidities Black men and women are at risk of Cancer

According to studies, obesity causes a person to have more fat tissues and fat cells. These are known to influence hormone levels, which, over time, can lead to increased cell production. As per the National Cancer Institute, this can encourage the growth of tumors or the development of certain cancers. These include ones common in the Black community, like prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) explains that Black men tend to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of this cancer at an earlier age than their peers. Along the same lines, obesity can also put people at more risk of stomach cancer, which both Black men and women are twice as prone to.


Compared to their White and Hispanic counterparts, Black adults are up to 70% more likely to succumb to a stroke. While strokes are more common in people over the age of 65, obesity heightens the risk of this happening at any age. Furthermore, obesity increases the chances of having a stroke by 64%. The reason why obesity can cause a stroke is because excess weight can contribute to blood pressure, which can lead to blood clots in the brain. Also, having a chronically high body weight can result in metabolic syndrome, where a person has elevated cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides. These have been found to damage blood vessels, which, over time, can make clots more possible.


Over the last three decades, researchers have found that racial disparities now see Black adults have a 50% higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes and obesity are linked because of the more pronounced abdominal and intra-abdominal fats. This has been found to cause insulin resistance. In the long run, being diabetic can make it difficult to lose weight, which can make it harder to get fit and healthy.

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