Mexico Overtakes U.S. as Most Obese Country

Created: 2013-07-12 09:53 EST

Category: World > North America

Mexico has overtaken the United States in levels of adult obesity, according to a recent United Nations report.

It blames an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and an abandonment of traditional dietary habits.

The Food and Agricultural Organization report says thirty-two-point-eight percent of Mexicans are obese, compared to thirty-one-point-eight percent of Americans, with tacos and tortas blamed for surging obesity.

At Mexico's National Institute of Medical Science and Nutrition, investigator Dr Abelardo Avila reveals that when overweight Mexicans are included, the true figure is upwards of seventy percent.

[Dr Abelardo Avila, Investigator, National Institute of Medical Science & Nutrition]:
"From 1999 to 2006 and to 2012, an explosive increase in obesity was reported. At the moment, over seventy percent of the adult population is obese and overweight. In children it's about thirty-five percent. We’re really in a situation which is an epidemiological alert."

Dr. Avila says Mexico is now at war with obesity.

[Dr Abelardo Avila, Investigator, National Institute of Medical Science & Nutrition]:
"We are at a point of no return. We either resolve it or we lose the country, the collapse of the health system. The health system cannot collapse without the collapse of the country. We can now say it is a national security problem, an epidemiological alert and a national security issue."

Mexico is a consumer of all-things American and the world's largest consumer of Coca-Cola, leading some experts to blame fast-food habits from their northern neighbour for Mexico's obesity crisis.

Expert panellist Alejandro Calvillo is the director of Consumer Power, a non-profit group focused on obesity.

[Alejandro Calvillo, Director, Consumer Power]:
"The main cause for this is the deterioration of healthy habits. Our country has the highest consumption of soft drinks in the world—one-hundred-and-sixty-three litres per person annually. It’s also related to abandoning traditional food and consuming junk food.”

This Mexico City resident blames a busy lifestyle in the sprawling metropolis for the epidemic.

[Enrique Morales, Local Resident]:
"It's because of the junk food. We're always in a hurry. We don't have a place or a time to eat, nor do we have space to do sports or other activities."

The World Health Organization is advising an hour of daily exercise and increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables.

According to official figures, obesity and related health problems such as diabetes easily surpasses the country's annual death toll from its bloody drugs war.

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