The role of acculturation factors among Mexican Americans and their association with folate status
Hamner, Heather Carter
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This dissertation examines the association of acculturation factors with folate status among two subpopulations of the Hispanic population, Mexican American older adults and Mexican American women of childbearing age. Three studies were conducted that focused on 1) the association of acculturation factors and folate intake among older Mexican American adults, 2) the association of acculturation factors and biochemical indices of folate status among older Mexican American adults, and 3) the association of acculturation factors and folate intakes among Mexican American women of childbearing age. The majority, 84%, of older Mexican American adults were meeting their EAR requirement for folate (320 mcg dietary folate equivalents daily), regardless of acculturation factors. Conversely, among Mexican American women of childbearing age, women who had lower acculturation factors were less likely to meet recommended folic acid intakes for the prevention of serious birth defects (400 mcg folic acid daily). Overall, lower acculturation factors (e.g., those individuals who reported speaking Spanish all or most of the time) were associated with lower total folate and total folic acid intakes, regardless of whether or not the study was examining older adults or women of childbearing age. However, naturally occurring food folate intakes did not differ by acculturation factors for both older adults and women of childbearing age. Associations of acculturation factors and biochemical indices of folate were only examined among older Mexican American adults, and findings indicated that lower acculturation factors were associated with lower serum folate and red blood cell folate status; however, this association was complex and varied by the measurement used to assess acculturation. Although the association between acculturation factors and folate intakes was fairly consistent across measures of acculturation, the association between acculturation factors and folate status was not straightforward. Other sociodemographic factors (e.g., poverty) were also important and often attenuated the relationships between folate status and acculturation, and so these complex interactions should continued to be explored in future acculturation research.