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Effects of Socioeconomic Status: Poverty and Health

Many of the foods commonly eaten by African Americans, such as greens, yellow vegetables, legumes, beans, and rice, are rich in nutrients. Because of cooking methods and the consumption of meats and baked goods, however, the diet is also typically high in fat and low in fiber, calcium, and potassium. In 1989, 9.3 million of the black population (30.1%) had incomes below the poverty level. Individuals who are economically disadvantaged may have no choice but to eat what is available at the lowest cost.

In comparison to other races, African Americans experience high rates of obesity, hypertension, type II diabetes, and heart disease, which are all associated with an unhealthful diet. Obesity and hypertension are major causes of heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and certain cancers. African Americans experience disproportionately high rates of obesity and hypertension, compared to whites. High blood pressureand obesity have known links to poor diet and a lack of physical activity.

In the United States, the prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is among the highest in the world. The alarming rates of increase of obesity and high blood pressure, along with the deaths from diabetes-related complications, heart disease, and kidney failure, have spurred government agencies to take a harder look at these problems. As a result, many U.S. agencies have created national initiatives to improve the diet quality and the overall health of African Americans.

The actual amount of any nutrient a person needs, as well as the amount each individual gets from his or her diet will vary. Many adults do not receive enough calcium from their diets, which can lead to osteoporosis later in life. Other nutrients of concern are potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E. Some population groups also need to get more vitamin B12, iron, folic acid, and vitamin D. These nutrients should come from food when possible, then from supplements if necessary

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