29 August 2019 | According to data from Duke’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center for Social Equity, black men attending church almost daily were almost three times as likely to be obese than those who didn’t go to church or rarely went.

The study in question was titled “Investigating Denominational and Church Attendance Differences in Obesity and Diabetes in Black Christian Men and Women.” It was published in the Journal of Religion and Health.

“Historically black churches have been a source of spiritual and social support, but greater religious engagement must also support good health behaviors,” said lead author Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, associate director of research and director of the health equity working group at the Cook Center, and assistant professor of general internal medicine in a quote for Duke Today.

“Both men and women who are active members of their churches are being pulled in a lot of directions outside of their faith community, which can make self-care a lower priority than what is warranted. We want them to make faith and health priorities in their lives, rather than faith or health.”

The study looked at data from the National Survey of American Life. The researchers examined the relationships between faith behaviors and health outcomes for over 4,300 African American and Afro-Caribbean Christians.

According to the study, black men who went to church “nearly every day” had about three times the likelihood of obesity when compared to non-churchgoers or those who rarely attended.

The researchers said that further study would be needed to discover the cause for this higher obesity rate and the reasons that it affected men and not women. The authors of the study said that obesity could be spreading through social norms.

The study pointed to prior research that had singled out Baptists as the most likely to be obese. Additionally, Baptists were discovered to have the highest odds of having diabetes across the denominational spectrum. The reasons for these odds have yet to be studied properly.

The researchers said that denominational views on the body and whether it is seen as “a vessel through which members serve God” could affect results.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

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