Study: ‘Soul Food’ Kills

Illustration for article titled Study: ‘Soul Food’ Kills

OK, that’s a little dramatic. Nonetheless, my alma mater has delivered, on a scarlet-and-gray platter, the latest nail in the coffin of African-American eating habits. (Emphases and edits, mine):

Researchers looking for differences in eating habits of African Americans based on whether or not they had Type 2 diabetes uncovered an unexpected result: No matter what the blood sugar level was, the dietary intakes were pretty much the same. . . . According to the study, the average diet of African-American adults is higher in carbohydrates and fat and lower in beneficial minerals and nutrients than are federally recommended for daily consumption. . . . African Americans are 1.8 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and 1.4 times more likely to be obese than are non-Hispanic whites, according to federal health agencies. Obesity is a leading risk factor for development of diabetes  . . . In general, the study showed that African Americans consume more fat and saturated fat than is recommended and lower-than-recommended levels of minerals associated with bone health – which can be compromised by diabetes. Blacks with diabetes got about half of their total energy from carbohydrates, and their intake of whole grains was well below recommended levels.


See, THIS is what I mean. African-American women are getting a perpetual beat-down by all these stats, and unless I’m misunderstanding, it’s our own fault. No, this study does not single out women, but we all know who’s in the kitchen in most households.

This study says 50 percent of our energy comes from carbs. Where are carbs found? Think of everything you like to eat that’s bad for you. I’m guessing you didn’t think of spinach. This statement from study author Jonathan Scott is pretty damning: “This means people who do have the condition aren’t doing anything different from when they didn’t, and those who don’t have the condition don’t appear to be trying to prevent diabetes.”



Whether we’re diabetic, pre-diabetic, overweight or not, the study of nearly 2,000 black folks found that, on average, our diets tend to be low on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and high on meat and non-whole grains.

I know cost can be a factor, but medication and doctor’s visits cost a great deal more than going down to the farmer’s or flea market and buying a fresh pineapple, pound of grapes and a couple of melons, taking them home and cutting them up into bite-sized chunks while you watch the evening news or Real Housewives of D.C. I can’t stand even the smell of cantaloupe, so I’ll buy a seedless watermelon (yes, I said watermelon) and maybe a honeydew. I have a huge, yellow bowl for the cut up fruit and grapes, and my family munches on it for four to five days. Satisfies my sweet tooth better than brownies or cookies, and the total cost for all that fresh, healthy fruit is less than $10.

I know people, young and old, with diabetes. I’ve heard of people who’ve lost their feet or legs because of the disease. At the Super Wal-Mart, I see super-obese women riding around in the motorized carts for the disabled, and often wonder – as they sail past the fresh produce section – if it’s because they’re too fat to walk comfortably.


I don’t mean to preach, but it’s my soapbox, so hear this: Whether your poison of choice is pills or ice cream, it’s still suicide.

Studies like this hurt my heart. I feel this viscerally. I love my people, love our culture, and yet I’m watching us choose to subtract ourselves off the face of the earth. The healthy African-American is officially an endangered species.


Listen to what Christopher Taylor, Christopher Taylor, senior author on the study paper and assistant professor of medical dietetics at Ohio State, had to say:  “Some people think prevention of diabetes is getting their blood sugar checked. But that doesn’t tell you how to prevent the disease from happening.  And because medications exist, people might think they don’t have to eat better because they have a pill that takes care of blood sugar. So there is a big behavioral side to this.”

First we make our habits, then our habits make us.   ~  Charles C. Noble

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Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.

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