Health Disparities

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

The relation between African Americans and watermelon is not wholly unfounded, although it is greatly exaggerated. Watermelon is, in general, a familiar fruit in Southern foodways. However, African American dietary habits, choices, and cooking methods, though largely Southern in derivation, have evolved from a long history of slavery, oppression, and segregation, resulting in decidedly different health outcomes today. See south (u.s.).

Though health disparities exist among all racial and ethnic groups across socioeconomic strata, it has been argued widely that there is a higher prevalence of obesity and weight-related diseases—cardiovascular problems and diabetes, for example—among African Americans. According to some studies, the reasons for these disproportions are not well understood. Others maintain that rather than the foods themselves, it is the long-held cultural beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes informing cooking methods—including the excessive use of sweeteners and fats—that have contributed to these health concerns. See sugar and health. At least one study suggests that among today’s African American youth and children, when compared to European Americans, there is an elevated preference for sweet tastes that begins in childhood. The same study found that, beyond young adulthood, African Americans may derive comfort and sustained pleasure from the repeated intake of sweet tastes in order to alleviate stresses stemming from racial inequalities.