Women with obesity walk along a street in Mexico City on May 20, 2013. Obesity among Mexicans soared from 9.5% in 1988 to 32% in 2012 and if overweight is included, up to 70%. Mexicans also contribute with 22,000 out of the 180,000 people who die annually in the world from conditions related to the intake of sweet drinks, a figure that doubles the 10,000 deaths caused by the organized crime in the country.
Despite government programs trying to target obesity, Mexico has overtaken the U.S. as the world's most obese country, according to a new United Nations report out this week.
The report found 32.8 percent of Mexican adults are obese, more than the U.S., which has a 31.8 percent obesity rate. Obesity in Mexico could be a result of various reasons, explains Dudley Althaus, a Mexico correspondent for Global Post who has been reporting on this story.
He says that, for one, greasy and processed foods are extremely popular in Mexico.
“It seems like every other day and every other block, there’s a convenience store that’s popping up,” Althaus said on Take Two. “These places are just chock-full of junk food.”
Another possible reason, which was pointed out by Althaus’ niece, is that many people eat from street vendors who often sell unhealthy items.
“You’ll see people standing in the streets eating fried tacos or fried gorditas and tamales and other foods, which aren’t really that good for you in mass quantities,” Althaus said.
The Mexican government has been trying to eradicate these bad eating habits through advertising campaigns, such as putting up billboards targeting school-aged children’s addiction to soft drinks. The new government and president is continuing that initiative, but Althaus says it’s not as aggressive.
Then comes the age-old question: Whose responsibility is this really—government or parents?
“Parents are very aware of their responsibilities, but you know these habits are hard to break,” Althaus said. “They’re kind of new habits, for one thing…it’s a tough turnaround as we’ve seen in the United States as well."
However, Althaus thinks habits are changing. Though vendors selling unhealthy foods tend to station themselves outside schools at the time they let out, some kids are choosing to buy snacks from vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables.