Junk food and what it has to do with COVID-19 deaths.
The coronavirus has killed 60,000 people living in the United States as of this past Wednesday, 29 April, and quickly. Though most of the more than 1-M known to be infected do not become seriously ill and many do not show symptoms those who are hardest hit often suffer rapid declines.
As scientists struggle to understand the overall effect of the virus and how to best address it, there are certain established truths that we can not afford to take for granted when it comes to protecting our health going forward.
A Key truth, and I have been writing about it in this column for at least 10 yrs, is the kind, quality and quantity of our food is essential to the quality of our health.
Young people who are obese are at particular risk and that overall obesity may be “one of the most important predictors of severe coronavirus illness.” That is no small matter in a nation where more than 67% of adults and about 33% of children and our youth are obese.
The findings are particularly frightening for Blacks and other people of color, who account for a disproportionate amount of obesity in the United States and are tragically proving to make up a disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths.
As the casualties rise it is important to note that there are many complex factors fueling obesity in Black communities. But some are easily addressed, such as the daily junk food marketing aimed at them.
University of San Diego Professor Aarti Ivanic, who studies the intersection of race and food marketing, found that many companies target their advertising of unhealthy fast food and junk food to Black and Hispanic populations, while promoting more healthy food choices to affluent White consumers.
Her work is supported by a report released last year by the Council on Black Health and the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity that found restaurants, food, and beverage companies often target Black and Hispanic consumers for their least nutritious products, primarily fast-food, candy, soda/sugary drinks, and snacks.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has recognized the dangers of this targeted marketing and has warned that that junk food advertising is so detrimental to the health of all young people, Black and Hispanic youth in particular that it should be sharply limited.
Jennifer Harris, senior research advisor at the Rudd Center, says these companies targeting youth in communities of color with their junk food advertising should be held responsible for “putting their profits over young people’s health and even their lives.”
“Folks in the public health nutrition world are hopeful that this pandemic shines a spotlight on the tragic consequences of the health disparities created by inequalities in our food systems,” she said.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has issued guidance saying it is “imperative for governments to promote policy and environmental changes that make healthy foods more accessible and decrease the availability and marketing of unhealthful foods.“
The people that eat that way are walking a Death Walk daily.
It should not take a pandemic to cure Americans of their complacency on this issue. After all, it is no secret that diet-related chronic disease has been on the rise in the US for decades and now impacts about 50% of all American adults, or more than 100-M people, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The Death March of this disease through our nation’s chronically ill population should be a wake-up call for all Americans.
Food quality, food access, food marketing and food choices are not casual concerns. They are proving to be matters of life and death
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively
Have a healthy day, Keep the Faith!