Mariella Danspeckgruber

UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, USA

Title: Old customs served up in the 21st century: Exploring cultural and interventions in achieving healthy weight


Mariella Danspeckgruber, MA is a research assistant and Gloria Bachmann, MD is a Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Bachmann is an expert in the area of women’s health, especially as it pertains to the menopausal woman. Recently, Ms. Danspeckgruber and Dr. Bachmann spoke at a Robert Wood Johnson event on food choice and the spiritual and cultural influences that impact it. They will be presenting on this topic at a national menopausal conference in the fall.


In the US today, 2/3 of the adult population and 1/3 of children are either overweight or obese, despite societal efforts at addressing this issue. Popular weight counseling and management interventions include exercise programs, calorie restriction, avoidance of certain food groups such as carbohydrates, fats and sugars as well as pharmacologic therapies and surgical procedures. Unwanted weight gain is especially key in women, who tend to gain extra pounds as they go through the menopausal transition. Looking back to past generations, many of the customs and practices dictated by religious frameworks may have also supported a healthy weight. Fasts associated with religious holidays, refusal to eat certain types of foods, specific meal preparations, and life styles that supported a day of rest during the week seem to be interventions that can contribute to maintenance of a desirable BMI even today. Many of the diverse cultural and religious practices of the world should be critically assessed regarding how they can aid in today’s obesity battle.