Original Research

Incongruence in body image and body mass index: A surrogate risk marker in Black women for type 2 diabetes mellitus

Rynal Devanathan, Viveka Devanathan, Tonya M. Esterhuizen
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 5, No 1 | a496 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v5i1.496 | © 2013 Rynal Devanathan, Viveka Devanathan, Tonya M. Esterhuizen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 October 2012 | Published: 18 July 2013

About the author(s)

Rynal Devanathan, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Viveka Devanathan, R.K. Khan Hospital, Chatsworth, South Africa, South Africa
Tonya M. Esterhuizen, Programme of Biostatistics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Background: Excess weight contributes to the development and progression of Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Distorted body image amongst urban Black women and the perception that thinness is linked with HIV, may however be compounding the problem, particularly in areas with a high HIV burden.

Objectives: This study aimed to compare the perception of body image in urban Black women with and without T2DM.

Methods: A cross-sectional comparative study was conducted on 328 Black women systematically sampled into two groups (with and without T2DM). Body mass index (BMI) (weight [kg]/height[m2]) was determined and the adapted Stunkard Body Image Silhouettes for Black women was used to determine perceived body image (PBI).

Results: Seventy-two per cent had T2DM and in this group 89% were obese, with a mean BMI of 39.5 kg/m2 (s.d. ± 8.5). In the non-diabetes group (NDG) 44% were obese, with a mean BMIof 31.3 kg/m2 (s.d. ± 9.0) Black women underestimated their body image across all weight categories (p < 0.05). Both groups (99% of the study group) also perceived thinness as being associated with HIV.

Conclusions: This study identified an incongruence between PBI and actual BMI amongst urban Black women. This, combined with their belief that thinness is associated with HIV, places those with T2DM at risk of secondary complications arising from diabetes mellitus, and those without diabetes mellitus at a higher risk of developing T2DM. A discrepancy between PBI and BMI may therefore serve as a risk marker to alert clinicians to use a more ethno-cultural specific approach in engaging with urban Black women regarding weight loss strategies in the future.


urban Black women; perceived body image; body mass index; type 2 diabetes mellitus; HIV


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