Is the black church causing obesity by encouraging overeating?

From Frugivore Magazine: Before you deem that question even remotely blasphemous, consider a study that was done by Northwestern University last year. The study tracked 2,433 participants, 41 percent of which were African American, for 18 years, only to find that those who attended one religious event weekly [were] more at risk for becoming obese.

Over at Urban Faith, author Will LaVeist cites his brother Thomas, who is both a professor and the Director at the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions. Thomas noted that Church culture often predicates a community where socializing begins and ends with food.

Black church culture is out of alignment with some biblical teachings, particularly when it comes to how we eat. Church culture has got us drinking Kool-Aid, eating white bread, fried chicken, large servings of macaroni and cheese and collard greens drenched with salty hog maws (foods that are high in sugar, salt, calories, and carbohydrates that trigger health problems). We’re eating this in the church basement at dinner and at church conventions! Meanwhile, the Bible teaches against gluttony.

Although it seems unfitting that the black Church should be directly held responsible for some of the health ails of the black community, as one of the staples in many of our neighborhoods, shouldn’t they at least aid in sending messages that healthy living includes both spiritual and physical well-being?

Some churches have began seeking out ways to do just that.

You may remember Rev. Michael O’ Minor, pastor of Oak Hill Baptist in Mississippi and one of the subjects of a conversation sparked by a New York Times article on healthy diet in churches. Pastor Minor was on a path to get his members to rally behind healthy eating. So much so that he banned fried foods, began to boil greens “with turkey necks instead of hamhocks,” and replaced sweet teas and soft drinks with bottled water. Minor also [installed] a track where he began having organized walks.

African Americans have the highest rate of obesity among all other groups.

What do you think? Is the Black Church Culture partially to blame for obesity in the black community? Is it time for more Churches to take action?

Read more great stories about black health on Frugivore.