Minority Population and Weight

December 16, 2018

What does weight have to do with minority population and voter suppression?

We are hopeful that the title of this article gets your attention, and that this might convince you to read our comments.  We are not conspiracy nuts.  We don’t at all believe in conspiracy theories; we leave the interpretation of facts to you.

We are presenting the facts as we see them daily, as owners of medical practices treating severely injured and disabled patients.  Our viewpoint is definitely skewed because we don’t see patients that are healthy and happy; we only see patients who are suffering from significant disease and most often have been pushed aside medically, economically, and socially. In short, they are “marginalized.”

If we told you that a completely man-made and preventable plague was spreading across the United States and would affect 75% of the population within twenty years, causing countless deaths and costing over $215 billion dollars per year, you might pay attention.  Like most epidemics, obesity is accelerating, and now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States — triple the rate from just one generation ago.  Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and carry a significantly higher negative lifetime economic and medical burden.  If you are overweight or obese, there is a 90% chance you will develop type 2 diabetes; yet, if you smoke for 30-40 years, you have a 10-17% chance of developing lung cancer.  Ask yourself which you are more afraid of, being overweight or smoking, and most people think smoking is more deadly. (This is not intended to suggest smoking is beneficial; it’s intended to frame the issue in context.)

Low-income families already face high levels of stress and poor mental health (e.g., anxiety, depression) due to the financial and emotional pressures of food insecurity, low-wage work, lack of access to health care, inadequate transportation, poor housing, and violence.

The federal government spends more than $20 billion a year on subsidies for farm businesses, with the majority going to the largest producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice.  This federally subsidized production reduces manufacturing costs for processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup. Simultaneously, consumer demand of processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup is stimulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which operates multiple food assistance programs.  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) currently allows the purchase of almost any food, except alcohol, hot foods, and foods that will be eaten in the store.  SNAP participants on average eat about the same number of calories per day as nonparticipants, but typically consume more hyperpalatable (tasty) foods containing fructose and industrial seed oils.  In fact, low-income individuals who were eligible for SNAP, but did not participate in SNAP, consumed fewer processed foods.  Consumers on food stamps get about 12 percent of their daily calories from sugary drinks, compared to 6 percent for higher-income people, even as overall soda sales are declining in the U.S.  SNAP households spend approximately 5% of their food assistance budget on soft drinks, and 9.3% on ‘sweetened beverages,’ which includes soft drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks and sweetened teas.  The sweetened beverage industry has lobbied aggressively to prevent SNAP from limiting soda purchases.

Some of this could be caused by lack of access to foods other than these. Low-income neighborhoods frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets, and many of the stores do preferentially stock heavily processed foods that are shelf stable and less likely to spoil.  Even when healthy food is available — especially fresh produce and meat — it is often of poorer quality in lower income neighborhoods, which diminishes the appeal of these items to buyers

Low-income communities also have a greater availability of fast food restaurants, especially near schools. These restaurants serve high calorie, nutrient-poor foods at low prices.  Low-income youth are also exposed to disproportionately more marketing and advertising for obesity-promoting products that encourage the consumption of unhealthful foods and discourage physical activity (e.g., fast food, sugary beverages, television shows, video games).

Due to safety concerns and the potential for violence, children and adults are more likely to stay indoors and engage in sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games, further increasing the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

By 2035, less than 16 years from now, data suggests that nearly 100% of the African American female population will be overweight or obese. The real issue with this is not directly in the female population, but in their children, who are then predisposed to obesity due to a change in their genetics caused by environmental epigenetic factors.  This change will cause a genetic shift for 3-5 generations.  This change will shorten lives, worsen disability, reduce lifetime economic earning, reduce academic performance, and increase rates of incarceration.

Placating the masses with hyperpalatable non-nutritious subsidized food maintains generational poverty and generational obesity through changes in genetics. Poverty reduces a population’s economic participation through both disability and a shortened life span.  The end result of specifically targeting low-income minority communities with processed food messaging is reduced political participation.  Reduced political participation then reinforces the cycle of economic poverty. This is what weight has to do with political participation and voter suppression.