12/13/2013 03:40 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

What Burgers Might Have To Do With African American Women's Obesity Risk


African-American women whose menu item of choice when eating out is a burger are more likely to become obese, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University found an association between eating burgers from restaurants twice a week or more and having a 26 percent higher risk of becoming obese over an approximately 15-year period, among African-American women.

The study is based on food frequency questionnaires and health data from 59,000 African-American women who were part of the Black Women's Health Study, which started in 1995. The Boston University research looked specifically at 19,479 women who were between ages 21 and 39, were not obese, and had no heart disease or cancer history at the start of the study.

The study participants were asked about the frequency with which they ate six specific foods -- fried fish, pizza, Chinese food, Mexican food, fried chicken and burgers -- from restaurants or fast-food joints, as well as their consumption of regular soft drinks, at two points during the study (1995 and 2001). The participants' self-reported weights were recorded every two years until 2011.

In addition to the association between burger consumption and obesity, researchers also found an association between consumption of at least two sugary beverages a day and a 10 percent higher risk of obesity. However, "the association with burgers was stronger than that with sugar-sweetened soft drinks," researchers wrote in the Ethnicity & Disease study.

The findings held true even after controlling for consumption of French fries as part of the meals. Researchers noted the associations were particularly strong among women who were younger than age 30, and who had a normal weight at the start of the study.

"The identification of individual foods or beverages that are associated with weight gain provides a basis for specific and straightforward recommendations to help prevent obesity," researchers wrote in the study. "Awareness needs to be raised that even young women who have healthy weights are at risk of becoming obese if they frequently consume these food items."

Clarification: Language has been added to reflect that the Boston University research did not use data from all the participants in the Black Women's Health Study.