Fighting Obesity

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.57.35 PMBy Julie Etra

Mexico has finally surpassed the United States and has achieved the ignoble title of fattest population in the Western Hemisphere with 32.8% of the adult population deemed obese (as compared to 31.8% in the US). It is, however, surpassed by several Pacific Island countries including Nauru (71.1 percent), the Cook Islands (64.1 percent) and the Marshall Islands (46.5 percent). Seventy percent of the population is now overweight. This is due, in large part, to the exponential increase in consumption of sugared soft drinks, particularly Coca-Cola, and junk food. Add an increased sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, which includes malnutrition.

Mexicans drink more Coca-Cola than any other nationality, 225 liters (60 gallons) per person per year, and more soft drinks than any other country worldwide.   As in the United States the problems caused by obesity are causing a public health crisis in Mexico, with a rise of heart disease and diabetes.

Part of the problem can probably be traced to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Act) passed in 1994, when food imports increased dramatically, including presumably processed food with high content of filler dextrose from GMOs. In just ten years it is estimated that Coca-Cola consumption alone doubled among children.

However there is hope, and a recent N. Y. Times an article addressed a new foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, established by Michael Bloomberg, current mayor of N.Y. City, who has been fighting to reduce the availability of large, sugary soft drinks but has met opposition in his own home town. He is now focusing his attention on the Mexican problem. On October 19th the NY Times reported that following lobbying and proposals put forth by President Enrique Pena Nieto, the lower house of Mexico’s Congress approved a tax on soda and other sugary flavored drinks. At the same time legislators also added a junk food tax of 5 percent to most snacks and candy. As anticipated the beverage industry, along with sugar producers and the owners of small stores, has led a fierce lobbying campaign against the tax, but public health advocates have fought back. As of this writing the Senate will consider the tax bill in late October.