How Mexico got so fat and is now more obese than America
- Almost 33 percent of Mexicans are now obese and 70 percent overweight
- The poor and young are worst affected, often both malnourished and fat
- Mexican food is traditionally high in calories, fatty and fried
- U.S. restaurant chains opening up in the country aren’t helping the problem
- Growth in waistlines is due to increases in income and urban lifestyles
By James Daniel DailyMail PUBLISHED: 8 July 2013
According to a United Nations report, Mexico are the new kings of the calories.
The report blames Mexican’s expanding waistlines on a combination of rising incomes and rampant consumption.
With almost 50 percent of Mexico’s population considered poor, it is the malnourished that are becoming obese.
Diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses are on the increase, plus sizes clothing fills the racks in stores and Mexicans keep eating.
Weight-related diabetes claims the most Mexican lives each year, with nearly one of every six Mexican adults suffering from the disease.
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Heart and related ailments round out the list of the country’s top killers.
‘The same people who are malnourished are the ones who are becoming obese,’ said physician Abelardo Avila with Mexico’s National Nutrition Institute.
‘In the poor classes we have obese parents and malnourished children. The worst thing is the children are becoming programmed for obesity. It’s a very serious epidemic.’
About 70 percent of Mexican adults are considered overweight; 32.8 percent are obese.
But the U.S. isn’t far behind panting to a second place finish with an obesity rate of 31.8 percent.
Less than a month ago, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease.
Mexico blames increasingly industrialized agricultural production for a worldwide epidemic of both obesity and malnutrition.
Sally Neiman who has lived in Mexico for 20 years says the new title doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.
‘Because of a lack of money and food, people go for more energy-intense foods. These are often high in sugar or fat. People drink Coca Cola as if it was water in order to have the energy to carry on – and so many of the foods are rich in carbs, are full of cheese or are fried.’
‘There is no control in schools to what kids eat this days, it is normal to see a kid having a soda for breakfast and eating ‘comida chatarra’ (junk food), it is allowed to be sold in schools.’
Experts have been warning about the growing obesity problem for years.
President Enrique Peña Nieto has launched a National Crusade Against Hunger, aimed at reducing ‘food insecurity’ for some 7.4 million Mexicans.
Most of the people targeted live in the more impoverished south of the country, where indigenous rural communities have been especially hit by malnutrition accompanied by cases of obesity.
Anti-poverty programs often end up putting cash into rural families’ hands that is simply spent on fried snacks and sodas rather than nutritious foods.
Much also has to do with what Mexicans wittily call Vitamin T foods — the tacos, tamales and tostadas that anchor their diet.
Once reserved for special occasions, the carbohydrate and lard-loaded dishes now get eaten on a daily basis.
When most Mexicans lived on the land and worked hard physical labor-intensive jobs obesity was kept at bay.
Now with more sedentary lifestyles, combined with the ability to fiesta-like food every day, the country’s waistline is expanding.
But for Mexico’s poor and working class, these options tend to be pricier – plus, the stodgy, heavier food already tastes good.
Some Mexican’s blame the arrival of American fast food chains coming over the border selling their junk food snacks.
Such restaurants have spread rapidly since the opening of the local economy to global marketers in the early 1990s.
Urban Mexicans stuff pizza, hamburgers and deep-fried chicken with ease.
Chips are cheap, cookies and sugary soft drinks pack the shelves of local stores.
Wealthier Mexicans have turned to healthier lifestyles.
Supermarkets offer fresher and lighter calorie food. Restaurants serving sushi, salads and the like are popular. Gyms that charge individuals as much as $200 a month are opening up.
As she sits down to eat her lunchtime taco’s Ms. Neiman ponders Mexico’s situation.
‘There really is no clear information on nutritional facts in this country and people with poor education are not aware of the risks. They believe the energy a Coke or a fatty food will bring to them is beneficial in order to help them get through the day.’
Quoting an old Mexican proverb, she smiles: ‘In Mexico we say ‘Barriga llena, corazon contento’ which translates as: ‘a full tummy means a happy heart.’ If you eat something delicious you will be very happy. I don’t think anyone can argue with that!’