03/30/2013 09:56 am ET

Latino Kids Being Targeted In Soda Wars For Obesity Studies

Are Latino kids being unfairly targeted as study subjects for obesity in youth and the relationship to drinking a lot of sodas?

There is now a growing controversy over the cottage industry of grant money going to study soda-drinking Hispanic kids, with the center of the storm a $30,000 payout from National Institute of Health to a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

It sounds like academic overkill to some, particularly the soda beverage lobby, especially the speculation that the final cost of that study might be something like $100,000.

But the fact of the matter is that, these grants aside, obesity among Latino kids – and their soda drinking habits – is a serious national health problem, at least to Hispanic health which already is hard hit by increasing diabetes rates.

In Texas alone, by 2030, nearly six million Latinos will be obese — a number that could soar to almost nine and a half million by 2040 — and adds up to a looming health crisis, with potentially high costs for the state, according to the Lone Star State’s demographer’s office.

In the U.S., the obesity rate among Mexican-Americans is 40.4 percent and almost as high among other American Latinos – and significantly above the national rate in which 35.7 percent of adult Americans are obese.

Latino kids and soda marketing

Part of the problem is that Latino youth have become some of the key targets for soda marketing.

“Hispanic teens were exposed to 99 percent more ads than their white counterparts,” according to a Yale University study on how soda and beverage companies target minorities.

The UC San Francisco study by Anisha Indravadan Patel, entitled “Increasing Water Intake In Lieu of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages among Latino Youth,” confirms as much.

“This issue is of particular significance among Latino youth as they are more likely to drink (Sugar-Sweetened Beverages) and less likely to drink tap water than white and Asian children,” the study reports.

“To date, few interventions have focused on increasing water intake among children and there have been no interventions that have focused on increasing tap water intake among Latino children.”

A new book by New York Times reporter Michael Moss tells the story of former Coca-Cola executive Jeffrey Dunn, who had first-hand knowledge of corporate game plans for marketing sodas to youth in Latin America regardless of consequences.

Dunn tells the author:

“A voice in my head says, ‘These people need a lot of things, but they don’t need a Coke.’ I almost threw up.”

Originally published on VOXXI as Latino kids as pawns in the soda wars



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