Acculturation or Secular Trends? A Pilot Study Following Emigrants from the Philippines to the US

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Principal Investigator: Gilbert Gee

Although immigrants have lower rates of obesity than their native-born peers, these rates converge the longer immigrants reside in the U.S. This convergence suggests that weight gain is occurring faster among immigrants. However, most prior studies of weight gain among immigrants were cross-sectional, lacked an international comparison group, and did not contain pre-migration information. Thus, studies may have been confounded by secular trends arising from the globalization of "American" foods and lifestyles. Our pilot study evaluates the feasibility of conducting a longitudinal, transnational, and multi-cohort study of immigrants. We follow two cohorts for one year. Both cohorts have baseline data collected in the Philippines. Cohort 1 is reassessed in the U.S.A., while Cohort 2 is reassessed within the Philippines. This design provides a natural experiment with migration as the “treatment,” and allows us to disentangle the effects of acculturation from secular trends. We have achieved a 96% retention rate over one year across both cohorts, despite the difficulties of following persons across countries. Preliminary analysis finds that a third of Filipinos in the Philippines already state that they eat “American” foods, suggesting that dietary acculturation may be overstated in the literature, and highlights the increasing globalization of dietary practices.