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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkHealth & Beauty 

Mexico Battling Serious Diabetes, Obesity Epidemic

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March 12, 2013

With 64 percent of adult men, eighty-two percent of adult women, and 34.4 percent of children in Mexico considered overweight, the nation has jumped up to fifth on the world list when it comes to obesity.

Mexico - Diabetes is the number one killer in Mexico and the chronic health condition is a direct result of the obesity issue the country struggles with. In fact, approximately two-thirds of the total nationís population are classified as overweight or obese, reports Mexican news syndicate Aljazeera, with most of the issue stemming from lifestyle and eating habits.

The obesity epidemic in Mexico has been ongoing for almost a decade; in 2007, the nationís health secretary, Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, estimated the incidence of diabetes would rise by approximately 40 percent by 2012, killing as many as 100,000 Mexicans annually. His numbers were not far off, with diabetes claiming the lives of approximately 70,000 Mexicans a year, according to a 2012 report from McClatchy.

With 64 percent of adult men, eighty-two percent of adult women, and 34.4 percent of children in Mexico considered overweight or obese, the nation has jumped up to fifth on the world list when it comes to obesity and obesity-related health conditions.

Obesity in Mexico: The Price of Convenience

When it comes to obesity in Mexico, most fingers point to the surge in sugary beverages and snacks, which have complicated an already sedentary lifestyle for many Mexicans. People in Mexico spend approximately $14.3 billion annually on soft drinks alone, reports Smart Planet, and food stands, known as puestos, offer an unhealthy - but affordable - mixture of tamales, quesadillas and tacos accompanied by soda or juice.

Because quality drinking water is scarce in many regions of Mexico, bottled sodas and juices are a far more common choice for people, even those dining at home. On average, Mexicans consume 728 eight-ounce sugary drinks from Coca-Cola per person annually, an average of two a day, compared to 403 eight-ounce drinks per person in the United States.

The movement toward convenient foods is also apparent in the Mexican school system, where students are offered unhealthy snacks despite the prevalence of obesity and diabetes among young children.

"Why do they keep selling potato chips and ice cream at the school where my son goes?" asked Fabiola Balbuena Torres, a 31-year-old professional wrestler who goes by the ring name Faby Apache. Torres is one of many professional wrestlers taking part in "Fight Against Obesity," a program in Mexico designed to encourage young people to choose a healthy diet.

Diabetes and Obesity in Mexico: A National Issue

Mexicans currently spend upwards of $380 million annually on diabetes medications. An estimated 6.5 million to 10 million Mexicans suffer from the disease, with more than 400,000 young people affected.

The rising numbers of diabetics have put the Mexican government in a bind, with the national health secretary stating in a 2012 report that the nation was facing a complex health agenda. "We still suffer the sicknesses of underdevelopment, like infectious diseases and malnutrition, and at the same time weíre facing the challenges of advanced nations like cancer, obesity, diseases of the heart, and diabetes,"read the report.

To attempt to head off diabetes and obesity from the get-go, the Mexican education ministry and partners initiated "The Week of Taste" in 124 schools, a 2012 program designed to show children natural and simple flavors while creating a desire to eat healthy. The program is scheduled to continue in 2013.

The initiative was not the first time Mexico had put the spotlight on childhood obesity. In 2011, the government started a campaign to focus on getting young people to drink more water, eat more vegetables and fruit, and to exercise more.

For many parents, however, the efforts are minimal when no formal regulations have been put in place regarding healthy eating among young children. Lack of education on how lifestyle habits affect human health is a problem. For experts, the diabetes and obesity problems in Mexico and the world will never be resolved as long as people do not understand the connection between lifestyle and health.