U.S. No Longer Fattest Country: Mexico Becomes Most Obese Nation

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 9, 2013 1:57 PM EDT

fat woman
Mexico is the fattest country, a new United Nations report says. The United States no longer ranks as the most obese nation. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Mexico is the fattest country, slightly edging out the United States to take the "most obese" slot, according to the United Country's Food and Agricultural Organization,

The U.N. report says that about 32.8 percent of Mexican adults are overweight, compared to the U.S. figure of 31.8 percent, making Mexico the fattest populous country. (Some small Pacific Island countries, like Nauru and the Cook Islands, have obesity rates twice as high as Mexico.) Over the past decade, childhood obesity has tripled in Mexico, with experts warning that four of five heavy children stay fat for their whole lives.

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"The same people who are malnourished are the ones who are becoming obese," said physician Abelardo Avila with Mexico's Countryal Nutrition Institute. "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."

So what has made Mexico the fattest country?

A variety of factors have contributed to make Mexico the fattest country. More than ever, Mexicans are eating processed foods like potato chips, which have helped to supplant a traditional Mexican diet of whole grains and vegetables.

Sodas and sugary drinks are a huge part of the reason behind Mexico becoming the fattest country, says Barry Popkin, an obesity expert from the University of North Carolina who says Mexicans drink more sugary drinks than any other country.

"Marketing of sugary beverages is the most important factor that we have found [in Mexico]," Popkin told Al Jazeera. "Calories from beverages doubled between 1999 and 2006. Second, snacking is way up -- again, probably a demand created by marketing. And third, the huge growth of convenience stores and modern mega-food markets."

Mexico's urban lifestyle and rising wages have also contributed to Mexico becoming the fattest country, with more leisure time and less physical activity.

The obesity epidemic in Mexico is causing major increases in diseases. Diabetes, in particular, has shot up in Mexico, where weight-related diabetes is now the biggest killer every year. One out of six Mexican adults suffer from diabetes; 70,000 Mexicans now die of diabetes every year, which authorities say is roughly the equivalent of how many Mexican gangland deaths have occurred over the past six years. Each year, 400,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in Mexico.

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