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J Natl Med Assoc. 2000 November; 92(11): 515–523.
PMCID: PMC2568323

Culturally-sensitive weight loss program produces significant reduction in weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol in eight weeks.


Dietary and behavioral needs of special populations are rarely considered in traditional weight loss programs. This study assessed the impact of culturally-sensitive modifications to the Duke University Rice Diet weight loss program for African-American dieters. The study was a randomized modified cross-over study in which volunteers received either early or delayed weight loss intervention. Final outcomes were measured at 8 weeks. At the onset of the study, there were 56 African American participants, however, only 44 (79%) completed the study. The eight-week intervention was a modified 1000-calorie/day version of the Rice Diet. Modifications to the program included decreased cost, culturally-sensitive recipes, addressing attitudes about exercise, and including family members in weight loss efforts. Average weight loss for subjects completing the program was 14.8 pounds (SD = 6.8 pounds). BMI decreased from 37.8 kg/m2 to 35.3 kg/m2 (p < 0.01). Total cholesterol levels decreased from 199.2 mg/dL to 185.4 mg/dL (p < 0.01); systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased by 4.3 mmHg (p < 0.01) and 2.4 mmHg (p < 0.05), respectively. The control group showed no significant change in any outcome measures. We found that diet programs can be successfully tailored to incorporate the needs of African-Americans. Most importantly, these dietary program changes can lead to significant improvement in clinical parameters. Additional studies are necessary to determine the permanence of these short-term changes.

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