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Unveiling the Obesity Epidemic: Understanding Mexico’s Struggle with Weight

by Yucatan Times
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Before we delve into this important topic, it’s essential to note that roughly 75 percent of Mexico’s adult population is either obese or overweight. This prompts us to explore: how has this country landed into fighting a weight epidemic? what are they doing to improve the health situation? and what factors are influencing this crisis?

How Has This Epidemic Evolved?

The primary factor affecting Mexico’s nutrition has been the increase in American food imports. From 1989 to 2012, the share of American food products in Mexico’s imports grew by 6 %, reaching 8 % in 2012. This growth positioned the United States as the leading food supplier to Mexico.

However, the American diet is not an ideal model, as it predominantly consists of processed foods. These processed products, which are exported to Mexico, negatively impact the quality of Mexican nutrition. Such foods are often high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar, contributing to poor dietary habits.

Economists have been keen to investigate the correlation between the rise of American food imports and the increasing obesity rates in Mexico. Studies focusing on individuals who experienced this dietary shift revealed that the obesity rate among Mexican women increased by about 20 percent. Not only has this change in nutrition led to higher levels of obesity, but it has also increased diabetes cases. Since 1980, the number of diabetes cases has risen by 30%.

Efforts to Slow Down the Obesity Epidemic: What’s Happening Now?

The government has implemented several measures to slow down the obesity epidemic. What actions have they taken so far, what plans are in place, and how effective might these efforts be? Additionally, institutions and businesses have recognized opportunities within the health sector to contribute to addressing this crisis.

Also known as Mexico’s sugar war, the country had decided to put into place a soft drink tax to reduce obesity and diabetes. However, companies are fighting back as soft drinks are a billion-dollar industry and have power over the country’s economy.

Simon Barquera, a licensed physician and surgeon has recognized that current regulations on food and drink advertising are not stringent enough, especially considering that many advertisements target children. Companies like Coca-Cola invest billions of dollars annually in their marketing strategies, understanding that children significantly influence their parents’ purchasing decisions.

There is a push for stricter regulations on product labeling to ensure consumers are fully informed about what they are purchasing in supermarkets. After some years of analysis, positive results have shown thanks to the sugar tax, the most effective changes were seen in families with less income.

In recent years, the anti-obesity market has experienced significant growth, marked by the emergence of startups introducing innovative prototypes, while established companies continue to develop and refine their products.

Cor Health has been developing to become the gold standard health tracker. When it comes to tracking health, Cor Health is quickly becoming the best. In a similar vein, non-invasive weight reduction options have been developed by businesses like Spatz Medical, and pharmaceutical companies like Ozempic have experienced notable growth.

Factors Influencing Mexico’s Obesity Crisis

The obesity crisis didn’t just happen out of the blue. Many things contribute to it, like cultural habits, schools, and tight budgets. Besides processed foods and ads, there are other important reasons. Here are some other factors:

School food system 

The youngest generation has been influenced by the food school system. A report published by the Cambridge University Press declared that foods brought from home were of a higher nutritional quality than those purchased at school. The most commonly bought products were crisps (Doritos, Cheetos, salted processed snacks), soft drinks, and other products with high energy density.

Poverty and Access to Healthy Food 

While food in Mexico may appear affordable to some, for low-income families, accessing nutritious options can be financially prohibitive, leading to reliance on cheaper, calorie-dense alternatives. Unfortunately, processed and junk foods often come at a lower cost.

In times of financial strain, such as difficulty paying rent, cutting back on food expenses becomes a necessity for many large families with limited income. However, this creates a vicious cycle: consuming unhealthy foods can lead to poor health outcomes, which restricts work opportunities and earning potential, perpetuating reliance on processed foods due to their affordability.

Cultural significance of food

Before the widespread use of more processed ingredients, traditional Mexican food already posed health risks. Classic dishes feature elements like fried tortilla chips, fatty meats, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and refined beans. These foods hold cultural significance, often representing communal sharing, as seen in dishes like mini tacos or tortillas.

Various factors influence the health risks linked to food, affecting both public health and the economy of a nation. To combat these risks, countries like Mexico have increased funds and participated in various prevention initiatives. Consistent consumption of unhealthy food leads to adverse effects, necessitating lifestyle changes to break this harmful cycle and reduce obesity rates.

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