It’s time for Americans to jump for joy – and I’m sure they would if they were in any shape to do so – because they are no longer considered the fattest people in the world. What happened? A mix of diet, geography, and culture has given American’s neighbors the new distinction, though they are in a tight race for the top spot. No, not Canada. The new fattest country in the world is Mexico.
A United Nations report has declared Mexico the most obese nation in the world. Apparently around 70% of Mexican adults are overweight, and 32.8% are obese. A third of teenagers are also overweight in Mexico. In comparison, 31.8% of adults in the US are obese.
One of the reasons for Mexico’s new distinction is the economic issue that plagues the American landscape as well – healthy foods are incredibly expensive. I can attest for this myself, especially considering I live in the most expensive city in the world, with fruits and vegetables at absurdly high prices. When you make the healthy food expensive and the unhealthy food cheap, quantity trumps quality when you have a family to feed.
But obviously this is not the only factor, because if you took a stroll through Tokyo, you would be hard-pressed to find an obese person, despite the prices of fruits and vegetables. Global Post offers another theory for Mexico’s obesity:
President Enrique Peña Nieto has launched a National Crusade Against Hunger, aimed at alleviating “food insecurity” for some 7.4 million Mexicans. Critics have accused the campaign of being politically motivated with an eye on elections held Sunday in 13 Mexican states. Many of the people targeted live in the more impoverished south of the country, where indigenous rural communities have been especially hit by malnutrition accompanied by cases of obesity.
[Abelardo Avila, a physician with Mexico’s National Nutrition Institute] and other experts criticize longstanding anti-poverty programs for putting cash into rural families’ hands that too often is being spent on fried snacks and sodas rather than nutritious foods.
The culture of Mexico has also changed from one of hard labor to one of a much more relaxed lifestyle.
What Mexicans wryly call Vitamin T — the tacos, tamales and tostadas that anchor their diet — underlies much of the problem. Once reserved for special occasions, the carbohydrate and lard-loaded dishes now get gobbled daily.
That wasn’t so much a problem in past generations, when most Mexicans lived on the land, worked hard physical labor and couldn’t afford a daily feast.
But the more sedentary lifestyles, combined with the ability to eat as if it were a party most days, has helped lead to the country’s girth growth.
And there is of course the anti-McDonald’s argument:
Many here also blame the popularity of US fast food restaurants and junk food snacks, which have spread rapidly since the opening of the local economy to global marketers in the early 1990s.
The United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, even claimed that NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) is what’s responsible for such a rapid rise in obesity and overweight people in Mexico.
Whatever the case, something as complicated as obesity can’t be chalked up to one simple cause. But Mexico and the US are well ahead of the other nations, the next of which is surprisingly New Zeland, 5 percentage less than the US.
World Obesity Rankings
- Mexico (32.8%)
- United States (31.8%)
- New Zealand (26.5%)
- Chile (25.1%)
- Australia (24.6%)
- Canada (24.2%)
- United Kingdom (23%)
- Ireland (23%)
- Luxembourg (22.1%)
- Finland (20.2%)