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Food's race card

September 01, 2008|Susan Brink | Times Staff Writer

RESEARCHERS have identified a new culprit, food marketers, to help explain why overweight and obesity rates are higher among African Americans (68.9%) than among whites (59.5%), according to statistics reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In a review of 22 studies published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health, they found that advertisers specifically target African Americans with unhealthy food messages. In television and print, high-fat, high-calorie foods are more heavily promoted to African Americans. Television shows that are popular among black audiences run a greater number of food commercials than do general-audience shows. The commercials themselves were more likely to pitch foods higher in calories and lower in nutritional value. And food ads in black-oriented magazines were dominated by low-cost, energy-dense, low-nutrition foods -- think doughnuts, potato chips and Twinkies.

"The results suggest that the marketing environments of African American consumers are less likely to support the development and maintenance of healthful eating," the study concludes.

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susan.brink@latimes.com

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