Social valorisation of stoutness as a determinant of obesity in the context of nutritional transition in Cameroon: The Bamileke case

CNRS, UMR 7206: Eco-anthropologie et Ethnobiologie, Muséum national d'Histoire Naturelle, CP 139, 57 rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France. Electronic address: .
Social Science [?] Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 11/2013; 96:24-32. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.07.004
Source: PubMed


Body size perceptions were assessed among members of the Bamiléké, an ethnic group in an urban setting in Cameroon with high rates of obesity, but also a positive perception of stoutness in its social representations. We first implemented a qualitative study (April 2007) to identify local representations of body weight among Bamiléké using semi-structured interviews. We then quantitatively assessed body size perceptions among a representative sample of Bamiléké (May to June 2007), employing a body image assessment scale and a questionnaire that included declarative body weight self-satisfaction, health status, and attempts to reduce weight. Results indicate Desired Body Size (DBS) for women, and particularly for men, was situated in the overweight category. Qualitative analyses show that overweight is considered as a normal and healthy body size in the Bamiléké. On the other hand, the quantitative study reveals that high rates of obesity, especially in women (40.8% obese), are associated with high blood pressure. Moreover, subjects who had a negative perception of their health status wanted to lose weight (p < 0.01). Unlike males, females have a DBS lower than their Current Body Size (p < 0.001). In addition, subjects (particularly males) who felt they were too lean, were older than those who felt too fat. We therefore conclude that the social valorisation of stoutness exposes Bamiléké, particularly males, to obesity. Although the women stated a desire to lose weight and present aesthetic criteria more oriented towards slimness, the attitude of the Bamiléké remained oriented toward stoutness appreciation. This preference can help protect against body image disturbances identified in Western societies, but may also increase of the incidence of obesity and its associated pathologies in this part of the world.

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    • "This title suggests that to think big is beautiful is an outdated way of thinking. Within this framework, positive meanings of fat are " maladaptive " (Cohen et al. 2013, 5) and therefore " bad " for health. Adopting a positive/negative approach to fat reproduces the notion that all fat is bad, that fat indicates disease, and, furthermore, that fat-positivity is " risky " (Bacon 2008; Campos 2004). "
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    ABSTRACT: Anthropology, public health, and epidemiology have long researched meanings of body size and factors that contribute to epidemiological transition. The author draws attention to a dichotomous framework operating with these fields where fat-positive and fat-negative cultures are represented as oppositional. Drawing from fieldwork among Samoan evangelical Christians, the author argues that contextual analysis of fat reveals ambiguity and ambivalence. In Samoa, negative and positive meanings associated with fat are dynamically engaged. In conclusion, she argues that representing fat in dichotomous terms is Othering because “the West” is represented as the fat-negative while “the rest” is represented as fat-positive.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015
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    • "Similarly, the Bamileke of Western Cameroon, historically recognized as a wealthy ethnic group even after their migration towards the town, have now supplemented their traditional caloric dishes, which contain much palm oil, with foods containing large amounts of sugar and fat (e.g. seven lumps of sugar in a cup of coffee, extremely fatty doughnuts) emphasizing their wealthy status to surrounding peoples (Cohen et al., 2013) 16 . Even after migrating to industrialized western countries, people from these areas that live in poor neighborhoods of large cities, maintain these food habits (Wluczka and Debska, 2006; Kulkarni, 2004) 21,22 although other foods are much more accessible. "
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the links between taste perception and obesity would help authorities cope with obesity, which diminishes the health of human populations. This has been highlighted by a study of the impact of programs intended to educate obese adolescents about healthy diets (Pasquet et al., 2007)1. We present and discuss the results of this study in this chapter. In order to analyze the relationships between taste perceptions and obesity, we will (I) present the main aspects of taste perception: psychophysical (mostly nerve impulses) and psychocultural dimensions, (II) specifically describe responses to sugars and fats, (III) explore the ethnic variability of taste responses, (IV) assess psychocultural dimensions of taste perception which would promote a loss of weight, and (V) show how psychophysical taste perceptions could interfere with the weight loss program throughout the psychocultural dimension.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014
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    Full-text · Article · Jan 1988 · Cahiers du Centre de recherches anthropologiques
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