Does the Environment Exacerbate Effects of Stress on Black Women’s Food Choices?
Diet and obesity are major risk factors for a large number of non-communicable diseases, for which black women experience disproportionately high morbidity and mortality. Psychosocial stress and the food environment have emerged as two potentially important influences on black women’s food choices. The combination of stress and unsupportive environments may be particularly deleterious to black women’s health. It is possible that black women living in environments with more unhealthy foods and fewer healthy options are more likely to eat energy-dense, nutrient poor foods such as snack foods when exposed to stressors than women who are exposed to stressors but live in environments with more healthy foods. Results of studies testing this hypothesis in the U.S. to date are mixed. To reduce diet- and obesity-related non-communicable diseases, interventions to promote healthy food choices are needed at multiple levels. This includes policies to make the healthy choice the easy food choice and reduce sources of stress, and interventions to help black women cope with stress in their lives. Rwanda and Sub-Saharan Africa have the opportunity to engage in such strategies to promote healthy eating and thus curb the rise in obesity and non-communicable diseases in black women.
Keywords: black women, USA, stress, environment, diet, obesity, non-communicable disease