Photo: Alex Lines (Flickr)
The less money you have in Mexico, the more likely you are to be overweight or obese – especially if you’re a teenage girl. That’s according a recent study that shows the burden of obesity shifting from wealthy suburban Mexican families to lower-income Mexican families.
Led by Dr. Sonia Hernandez-Cordero of the Center of Research in Nutrition and Health in Cuernavaca, the research shows that in 2012, 28.8 percent of all children were either obese, or at risk for obesity. Almost one-quarter of preschool-aged children were obese or at risk, and over one-third of adolescents.
Obesity has increased in Mexico in the past few decades, with some data showing rates doubling every 10 years. The prevalence of childhood obesity in Mexico is one of the highest worldwide.
Historically, obesity was associated with higher socioeconomic status. But in the last 13-24 years, increase in obesity has been more pronounced among children from lower socioeconomic levels in almost all age groups.
Mexico also leads the world in rates of diabetes. In fact, it’s the country’s number one cause of death, according to the World Health Organization.
Similar to obesity, diabetes used to be a disease of the rich, according to the head of the World Health Organization’s office in Mexico, Dr. Gerry Eijkemans. “In Western Europe and the U.S., it was really the people who had the money who were obese, and now it’s actually the opposite,” she tells Maine Public Radio.
Late last year, the Mexican health minister declared diabetes and obesity to be public health emergencies. It’s the first time such a declaration was made that wasn’t targeting an infectious disease.
Mexican officials have already taken steps to prevent obesity and diabetes in children. In 2014, they implemented a 5-cents-per-liter soda tax, and new rules bar advertisements for high calorie junk food aimed at children.