Trend of rising obesity in Mexico worrisome

2014 marks a new beginning in Mexico as the government has instituted the first substantive policy change in dealing with a health epidemic that is…
Trend of rising obesity in Mexico worrisome

The Mexican government is trying to battle the upward obesity trend. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)

2014 marks a new beginning in Mexico as the government has instituted the first substantive policy change in dealing with a health epidemic that is sweeping over the nation.

By introducing a soda tax on sugary drinks, Mexican policymakers are attempting to curb the obesity pandemic which has made glucose the nucleus of the average Mexican’s diet.

Meanwhile, Monday, May 26th, marked the end of an era for the Guinness Book of World Records. Following an on and off eight-year reign as the world record-holder, Manuel Uribe of the city of Monterrey—better known as the world’s “fattest man”—passed away due to cardiac and liver complications.

By the time of his death, Uribe had reached the unlikely age of 48, following a life which had seen him constantly plagued by the consequences of his extreme obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

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Unable to leave his bed for the last 12 years of his life, Uribe measured in at 1,230 lbs when the Guinness Book first recorded his weight in 2006. Since, Uribe was consistently ranked amongst the two most overweight people alive—along with Khalid bin Mohsen Shaari of Saudi Arabia—despite managing to trim down to a substantially lower 867 lbs by the time of his death.

Albeit an exceptional case, Uribe’s example points at a much more worrisome and widespread trend that has taken hold of the whole of Mexico over the past several decades. In July of last year, CBS News reported that Mexico had overtaken the United States as the “fattest country” in the Western Hemisphere.

With an adult obesity rate of 32.8 percent—the U.S’s is at 31.8 percent—Mexico finds itself in a midst of a public health crisis that is unprecedented in the country’s history.

Already, the crisis has augmented cardiac disorders and diabetes diagnoses in both children and adults. But the more troubling aspect of the increased obesity rates relates to the contingent of the population it has affected most so far.

As Abelardo Avila of Mexico’s National Nutrition Institute told CBS News in an interview, “The same people who are malnourished are becoming obese. 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.”

In other words, due to the development of unwholesome eating habits, the epidemic of overeating is hitting Mexico’s poorest hardest. With the relatively recent influx of mass-produced and imported sugary products and drinks—which have replaced more natural food produces and home-cooked meals—low-income families in Mexico have seen an exponential spike in cases of obesity.

As Al Jazeera reported in April, “There are about 21 million clinically obese adults in Mexico – that’s an incredible 38 percent rise since 2000…Diabetes rates doubled in this period – one of the most rapid growths seen anywhere in the world.”

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Faced with this domestic crisis, compounded with international calls for reform, government officials have finally decided to take action by enacting a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. There is little evidence that the 10% tax per liter will curb the rising obesity rate, but the action is definitely a step in the right direction for the Mexican legislature.

As the U.S.’s little brother to the south, Mexico finds itself in a never-ending quest to stack up its northern neighbor. However, after finally overtaking the U.S. in a less-than-appealing category, Mexico should be content with once again standing to the right of the podium when it comes to domestic obesity rates.