Obesity and African Americans

The HealthGal Health Guide September 01, 2008
  • About a week ago, I got a question on the "Ask" center that focused on African -Americans and statistics of obesity.  After answering it with some general information, I got to thinking that it was worthy of a bit more investigation.  After all, African Americans are outpacing whites when it comes to obesity.  According to statistics from the Kaiser Foundation, 68.9% of African Americans are overweight or obese, compared to 59.5% of whites (not a race you want to be winning).  The culprit?  Well "food marketers" are certainly contributing substantially to the problem in the African American community.

     

    A review of 22 studies shows (without a doubt) something we nutritionists have suspected for quite some time.  Advertisers SPECIFICALLY target African Americans with unhealthy food messages and unhealthy food.  And did you know that in TV and print ads, high calorie-high fat food is the focal point of many commercials directed at this community??  Did you know that more food ads are run during TV shows popular with this community?? Did you know that food ads in magazines that target this community tend to be "low cost-energy dense - low nutrient value foods" like donuts, chips and Twinkies??

     

    So you are constantly under fire and being tempted by frank and subliminal messages to eat (in large amounts) the very foods that we're trying to highlight as "sometime treats."  I can tell you as a nutritionist - this reality can really be daunting for someone trying to get healthy or lose weight.  Think about it - we tell drug addicts and smokers to control their environment - and they can, if they choose to,  because their "drug of choice" is something they can keep out of their home- their work - their personal space.  You've got to somehow co-exist with food and frankly magazines-newspapers - TV are also pretty much a steadfast part of our lives.

     

    here in California there has been a movement to control the burgeoning growht of fast food outlets in the communities that tend to be low income and African American.  That's certainly one step - but we need alot more "steps" including a shift in advertising messages.