DIABETES BEAT

A number of supermarket retailers have lined up to take part in a new outreach program organized by the Latino Nutrition Coalition to help Hispanic shoppers from falling into the potentially deadly health trap of obesity and diabetes. The LNC, part of the Boston-based Oldways Preservation Trust, has developed a 16-page nutrition book it hopes to get into the hands of Latino shoppers by this spring.

A number of supermarket retailers have lined up to take part in a new outreach program organized by the Latino Nutrition Coalition to help Hispanic shoppers from falling into the potentially deadly health trap of obesity and diabetes. The LNC, part of the Boston-based Oldways Preservation Trust, has developed a 16-page nutrition book it hopes to get into the hands of Latino shoppers by this spring.

“The American Diabetic Association predicts that one out of every three Americans born after the year 2000 will probably develop diabetes at some point in their life,” said Liz Mintz, LNC's director and a native of Colombia. “For Latinos, it's one of every two, which is a big difference.”

The initiative will be tested in one regional chain, with hopes that it will attract more sponsors and supermarkets in other regions of the country. Right now, companies like Unilever, ConAgra and Goya Foods have signed on to sponsor the publication of the pamphlet, called “The Magic Road,” or “El Camino Magico.”

“We think that if we can intercept behavior at the supermarket, where a lot of the decisions of what you eat or how you eat are made, we can make them more aware of food choices,” said Mintz.

Compared to the USDA's food pyramid, the LNC's dietary guidelines for Latinos recommend less sweets and more of such foods as corn, potatoes and beans, along with more fruits and vegetables specific to the consumer group, including tomatoes, onions and chili peppers.

“It's been shown that when Latinos reverse and go back to better eating habits, they can stop the onset of the disease,” said Mintz.

For supermarkets, the importance of the program can't be underestimated: Projections put the buying power of Latinos at $1 trillion by 2010.