DARCEL LEE: Eliminating Sugar Sweetened Beverages from African American Diets.

sac-button-DarcelOPINION – In South Central Los Angeles, a single mother struggles with her weight as she tries hard to kick the diet cola habit every morning on her way to work. She tells me that it is her morning Java, her jump start to her day and yet, she says, she knows that this habit is a major contributor to her propensity for diabetes and obesity.

In Fresno, a young man, only 13 years old, tips the scale at 300 pounds. He has been told by his physician that he has high blood pressure and that his heart is at risk so he must lose the weight. As he leaves school for the day, he seeks out a 7-Eleven so that he can pick up a Big Gulp soda as he slowly and exhaustedly walks home.

And, in Sacramento, a teenage African American pregnant mother is “scared straight” when she is told that her yet, unborn baby is at risk because her diabetes is raging out of control. She vows to stop gorging on late night Pepsi and Taco Bell Churros as she tells me that she thought drinking Pepsi is “so cool” because Beyonce drinks it!

A research brief written by the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN) summarizes trends in sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption among Black adults and youths, outlines related health consequences, and identifies research needs and priorities that could help inform policies to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among Black Americans.

Key findings include:

Black Americans of both genders and across a wide age range consume more calories from SSBs daily, compared with White Americans.

Since the 1990s, SSB consumption among Black adolescents has increased significantly compared with SSB consumption among White adolescents, which has remained stable.

Several studies suggest that SSB marketing disproportionately targets Black Americans relative to Whites, which may encourage higher levels of SSB consumption among Blacks.*

Young people are being exposed to a massive amount of marketing for sugary drinks, such as full-calorie soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit drinks, according to a new study from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The study is the most comprehensive and science-based assessment of sugary drink nutrition and marketing ever conducted. The data show that companies marketing sugary drinks target young people, especially black and Hispanic youth.

So why does California Black Health Network (CBHN) think this issue is one that begs for our voice to be heard? Why is Junking the Junk Drink work so important? African American health concerns have reached epidemic proportions. Our numbers for obesity, cardiovascular and diabetes are sobering if not outrageous. Our children are dying from obesity issues caused by junk drinks and junk foods. If we don’t speak out, if we don’t win this fight, we will lose an entire generation to preventable diseases. CBHN works to ensure policies are changed and trends reversed. There is something we can do. So join us and join the fight against sugar sweetened beverages. Visit www.cablackhealthnetwork.org and find out exactly what you can do. You cannot afford to sit on the sidelines because the consequences are just too great!


By Darcel Lee

B. Darcel Harris Lee was hired in October 2010 as the Executive Director of the California Black Health Network, only the third director in the organization’s thirty-two history. She brings over 30 years of healthcare policy, legislative, and leadership experience to CBHN. She can be reached at info@cablackhealthnetwork.org or by calling CBHN at (916) 333-0613. The CBHN website is: www.cablackhealthnetwork.org.

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