Black youth are nearly twice as likely as their white counterparts to take in large quantities of their daily calories from sugary drinks, according to a new study examining American beverage consumption. Low-income children of all racial backgrounds also tend to drink almost twice as many sugary beverages as wealthier Americans do.
Considering the fact that sugar-filled drinks have been conclusively linked to an increased risk for obesity, the study’s results reveal some of the racial and economic disparities within the nation’s obesity epidemic. “Some groups may be more at risk for soda, others may be more at risk for fruit drinks, all of which … have the same sugar base that contributes to obesity and disease,” one of the study’s co-authors, health policy researcher Lisa Powell, explained.
This particular study didn’t try to figure out why that’s the case, although Powell did suggest to Reuters that “cultural norms” and cost could both be factors. But other studies have examined the links between race, class, and nutrition — and research has confirmed that access to healthy food is divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. Even aside from cost barriers, lower-income Americans tend to live in neighborhoods that lack healthy, high-quality food in nearby grocery stores, and they often struggle to access the transportation they need to go grocery shopping. The fast food industry also contributes to nutrition disparities by targeting its marketing to low-income communities.
It’s not clear whether the soda industry is also disproportionately targeting low-income or minority groups, but it wouldn’t be the first beverage sector to try. Alcohol advertising has been proven to particularly target black youth, even despite the fact that African-American teens tend to drink less alcohol than youths from other racial groups.