Why are blacks disproportionately dying from COVID-19?
AMP Research summarizes:
For each 100,000 Americans (of their respective group), about 35 Blacks have died from COVID-19, a mortality rate of more than double the rate for Latinos (15) and Asians (15). Blacks’ mortality rate is 2.6 times that of Whites (13).
Note that Latinos, who also suffer from poverty, lack of health care, discrimination, crowded housing, etc. have a lower death rate than blacks, and that the rates for Latinos, Asians, and Whites are about in the same range.
Could there possibly be a genetic component? That people who have African ancestry are more susceptible to this virus?
Why do Latinos, who suffer from most of the disadvantages that blacks have, have a death rate less than half that of blacks? I suspected that a greater sociability (which blacks share with groups like the Hasidim for similar historical reasons) might be a major factor, as it is with the Hasidim. But do Latinos observe social distancing more than blacks?
Genetic differences among population groups are a forbidden subject, but blacks have sickle cell anemia and those who live in northern climates suffer the consequences of Vitamin D deficiency, and Jews have Tay Sachs syndrome. Could something similar be happening with COVID-19? In which case the black community needs special protection. Or is there something that blacks are doing or suffering from that Latinos are not doing or suffering from? These are urgent questions.
Could it be diet? Blacks tend to like the traditional Southern diet (soul food) and fats food, both of which (alas!) are bad for you. From my sketchy observations, Latinos seem to still like traditional diets heavy on beans. But, according to SaludAmerica, Latinos suffer from obesity:
Latino adults were more obese (47%) than their black (46.8%), white (37.9%), and Asian (12.7%) peers.
The New York Times reports of one facility:
Nearly 60 percent of those hospitalized at the Northwell facilities had high blood pressure, 40 percent were obese, and about one-third had diabetes. Smaller numbers of patients suffered from other chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, kidney disease and chronic respiratory illnesses.
Other smaller reports from New York City area hospitals have also highlighted obesity as a complicating risk factor. One hypothesis is that obesity causes chronic, low-grade inflammation that can lead to an increase in circulating, pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may play a role in the worst Covid-19 outcomes.
Obesity contributes to diabetes and high blood pressure. Perhaps that is why the Navajo nation has been so hard hit, despite the extremely low density of population. Native Americans had no problem with obesity until the Federal giveaways of refined flour, lard, and sugar during the Depression changed their diet.
Native American adults are 50% more likely to be affected by obesity than non-Hispanic whites, according to a report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Native Americans also are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have diabetes, the CDC says.
Diabetes and obesity are linked; more than 90% of people with Type 2 diabetes are affected by some degree of obesity, according to the Obesity Action Coalition. Excess weight can make the cells of muscle and other tissue more resistant to self-produced insulin.
This chart from London suggests that genes are at most a small factor. Blacks in the UK do not have the same dietary history as American blacks. So perhaps it is neither genes nor obesity but diet. It seems to be something that affects American blacks but not Latinos or UK blacks. Are there any other candidates but diet?