Fighting the Soda Epidemic in Minority Communities

African American and Latino community groups have sometimes been seen as allies of “Big Soda” for years. However, last week, two prominent African American pastors in the DC area filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association, claiming customers are being deceived about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages. The pastors are upset over the number of hospital visits and funerals of their parishioners caused by obesity-related illnesses. The lawsuit is putting the soda industry on notice to stop targeting minorities who are at high risk of chronic diseases aided by consuming sugary drinks.

Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and leg amputations are much higher among minority groups than whites. These groups also drink more soda. In a poll by the CDC, 22.6 percent of Hispanic adults drink at least one soda each day, while 20.9 percent of black adults do. One of the pastors says that they are “losing more people to the sweets than to the streets.”

There is a unique link between soda consumption and disease like obesity and Type 2 diabetes. A 20-year study of 120,000 adults in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 found that people who drink more than one 140 calorie soda each day gained more weight over time. They also have greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and gout.

These epidemics are worse among communities of color. Nearly half of African Americans are affected by obesity, as well as 42 percent of Latinos. Companies like Coca-Cola do market more to Latino and black communities due to the fact they drink more sugary beverages than whites. Soda ads appear more often during TV shows targeted to black audiences. Billboards for low-nutrient foods are placed in black and Latino neighborhoods.

People need to limit their intake of added sugar to no more than ten percent of their total calorie intake each day. Coke is offering smaller size containers, reducing sugar in existing beverages, and making low and no-sugar beverages available. Calorie and nutrition information is found on the label so people can make informed food choices for their families. The American Beverage Association is funding nutrition and healthy cooking programs in low-income neighborhoods of New York, Los Angeles, and other cities.
Dewey, Caitlin. “‘We’re losing more people to the sweets than to the streets’: Why two black pastors are suing Coca-Cola.” Wonk. The Washington Post, 13 Jul 2017. Web. 16 Jul 2017.

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