A new study finds that young women commonly fail to recognize recent weight gain of as many as 11 pounds, which puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease and other obesity-related conditions.
Self-perception of weight gain also appears to be significantly influenced by race, ethnicity and contraceptive methods.
In the study, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) researchers found that a significant number of women evaluated at six-month intervals did not recognize recent gains in weight.
Overall, nearly one-third and one-quarter of women did not recognize gains of approximately 4.5 and 8.8 pounds during a six-month interval, respectively.
However, black women and DMPA users (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, commonly known as the birth control shot) were more likely to recognize weight gain than their counterparts.
Researchers surveyed a sample of 466 women with an average age of 25. Approximately 37 percent of the subjects were Hispanic, 35 percent non-Hispanic white and 29 percent non-Hispanic black women.
Roughly 39 percent of the women used DMPA, 36 percent used an oral contraceptive and 25 percent were non-hormonal contraceptive users.
"We were surprised to find that race and ethnicity are determinants of accurate recognition of weight gain, predictors that have never before been reported," said lead author Dr. Mahbubur Rahman, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The study found that DMPA users are likelier to recognize weight gain, and Rahman believes the finding may be attributed to the fact that DMPA has been widely reported to be associated with weight gain and that users may be engaging in more mindful and continuous weight monitoring.
He noted that further studies using detailed measures that include cultural, psychological and perceptual aspects of weight change in women are needed to explore this relationship.
The study was published online and in the March issue of the Journal of Women's Health.