Jul 10, 2013 10:12 AM EDT
Mexico has now become the world's fattest country with a 32.8 percent adult obesity rate, surpassing United States' 31.8 obesity rate, according to a study released, June by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). About 70 percent of Mexican adults are considered to be overweight.
The rising obesity rate is leading to a serious health crisis in Mexico as more adults are dying of heart diseases and diabetes. Plus, one in every six Mexican adults suffers from weight-related diabetes.
The country has arrived at this situation due to its inactive lifestyle, less manual labour, industrialized agricultural production, rising incomes and bad eating habits. As a result, the majority of the racks in the clothing stores are filled with plus sizes.
Majority of the Mexican population blame the establishment of American fast food centres and other restaurants focusing on pizza, hamburgers and deep-fried chicken, chips, cookies, for rise in levels of obesity. The establishment occurred when the local economy opened to global marketers in the early 1990's.
'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,' said, Sally Neiman who has lived in Mexico for 20 years.
'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.'
The study also revealed that Mexico's poor families, who represent 50 percent of the total population, are the most affected by malnutrition and cases of obesity
"The same people who are malnourished are the ones who are becoming obese," physician Abelardo Avila with Mexico's National Nutrition Institute said. "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."
Mexico's poor and working class consume food rich in carbohydrates and lard-oil such as tacos, tamales and tostadas. On the other hand, healthy food such as broth-based soups, fresh fish, salads, vegetables and fruits are costly.
'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," Neiman said.
"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!'
Barry Popkin, an obesity expert at the University of North Carolina, said that part of the obesity problems in Mexico are caused by increased consumption of cheap sugary drinks and mass-marketed snack foods, which made even Americans fatter, that have resulted in disappearance of home-cooked meals, along with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Recently, President Enrique Peña Nieto launched a National Crusade against Hunger, in attempt to reduce 'food insecurity' for about 7.4 million Mexicans.
However, experts believe that when anti-poverty programs dispense cash to rural families, they spend it on fried snacks and sodas rather than nutritious foods.
Last month, the American Medical Association deemed obesity, a disease.
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