WASHINGTON: County repeal of soda tax was a mortal mistake

SHARE WASHINGTON: County repeal of soda tax was a mortal mistake

(JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

I hope Big Soda’s politicians are happy. That was the Fat Nag’s reaction to a recent news brief in the New York Times.

“Obesity is the Main Contributor to Diabetes in Blacks and Whites,” it headlined.


“Type 2 diabetes is almost twice as common in African Americans as it is in whites. Obesity, rather than racial factors, is to blame,” the Times reported, citing a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, released in late December, hasn’t gotten much play. Too many of us have been too busy hanging on every idiotic tweet from a certain president.

The Fat Nag, my lifetime alter-ego, has been preaching that sermon for decades. Black people don’t have to be fat. They don’t have to get diabetes. We are not genetically infected with “the sugar.”

The study followed a cadre of 4,251 black and white men and women ages 18 to 30 who were not diabetic. Researchers conducted periodic interviews and health examinations over an average of 25 years.

When compared with whites, black men were 67 percent more likely to develop diabetes over the period. Black women, nearly three times more likely.

The study controlled for “a long list of modifiable risk factors” — fasting glucose, body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, location of residence, socioeconomic status, etc.

“The difference in diabetes incidence between the races disappeared,” the Times reported. The key cause: “obesity, which is tied to all of these risk factors.”

In other words, the fat is killing us. African Americans suffer from higher rates of diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses because we have bad diets, and suffer from proximity to food deserts and a lack of proximity to exercise options.

“There is no easy fix for this public health problem, which is driven by a combination of biological, neighborhood, psychosocial, socioeconomic and behavioral factors,” Michael P.Bancks,a co-author of the study and researcher at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told MedicalResearch.com.

We just missed out on one big fix — the chance to curb our extreme sugar consumption. The politicians are still crowing about their decisive defeat of the late, great Cook County sweetened beverage tax.

In October, after a massive lobbying effort, the pusillanimous Cook County Board repealed the one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. The tax would have reduced sugar consumption, particularly among blacks and Latinos, who suffer high obesity rates.

Adults who drink one soda or more every day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than those who do not, research shows.

Children who consume higher amounts of sugared drinks have a 55 percent greater chance of being overweight or obese compared with those who consume less, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

The politicians who backed that repeal are aligned with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Big Soda lobby.

Carbonated soft drinks are a leading source of deadly sugar. Their producers hauled in $80.6 billion in sales in 2016, according to Fortune.com.

The new study offers yet another, scientific argument that sugar-driven obesity is the enemy of black people. The County Board’s vote to repeal the soda tax was a mortal mistake.

Most of those short-sighted politicians are running in the March 20 Democratic primary. Let’s make them pay for that mistake.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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