“More than 50 percent of the young rural population of Yucatan, between 12 and 19 years old, suffers from overweight and obesity, essentially because of their economic situation, since “junk food” and sweetened beverages are more accessible to them, instead of healthy food”, said Odette Perez Izquierdo, nutritionist and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY).
According to data from the National Survey of Health and Nutrition 2012 (Ensanut) cited by the UADY researcher, the number of teenagers living in urban areas of the state that suffer from overweight and obesity, went from 42.5 percent in 2006 to 42 percent in 2012. However, in rural inhabitants this figure represents 52 percent, higher than the national average.
The nutritionist has worked, together with students of the UADY’s School of Nutrition, with several rural communities in nutrition and food education. She currently has a project funded by the Kellogs Foundation with young adolescents between 12 and 19 years of age in the Yucatecan community of Chacsinkin to improve their food health.
According to the expert, this town is a reflection of what has been detected in the all the rural communities across the state, where young people are overweight and obese. Only in this population, around 35 percent of this sector suffers from this disease and others already present cardiovascular risks at a very young age.
The specialist has detected that young people have bad eating habits because they stop eating traditional foods, rich in nutrients, to incorporate the “modern stuff”, such as soft drinks, which is what most young people consume, coupled with fried foods, cookies and “Frito Lays”, which are not expensive and can be accessed more easily.
Although, a large part of the families of these populations continue to grow their own food, they young do not do eat those products frequently, and in any case most teenagers prefer “junk” food, however, the grandparents still have an established “food culture”.
In addition, young people have the perception that eating a certain type of food is poor, for example, in the talks they are offered, they are given the option of combining food, such as egg with chaya or beans, but they say: “We always eat chaya, the chaya is for the poor”. However, they think that buying bottled sodas of a certain brand gives them a higher status.
“The food policy in the country must change”, stressed the nutritionist, “the focus should be on education. For its part, companies that sell junk food and candy should pay higher taxes to make it more difficult for people to access these products. they must also modify the labeling of these products, with messages where the consequences of their consumption are made evident (as in the case of cigarette packs).