Diabetes is the leading cause of death in Mexico.
An obesity epidemic here is blamed for the high rate of the disease, which affects 24 percent of men and 21 percent of women over the age of 35 years, according to the World Health Organization. Mexico’s health secretariat estimates that 90 percent of the cases of Type 2 diabetes in the country can be attributed to being overweight or obese.
Doctors and nutritionists blame the obesity epidemic on changing patterns of eating as Mexico modernizes. People are eating more fast foods and drinking more soft drinks.
In fact, Mexicans consume more soft drinks than people in any other country, chugging down 43 gallons per capita versus 31 gallons per capita in the U.S, the world’s No. 2 consumer, according to Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
Children are at special risk in Mexico, which also has the world’s highest rate of childhood obesity. More than 28 percent of children between ages 5 and 9, and 38 percent of preteens and teenagers ages 10 to 19, suffer from excess weight or obesity, according to Mexico’s Social Security Institute.
At food stands, where busy Mexicans eat a quick breakfast of warm tamales or quesadillas or grab tacos or tortas for lunch, soft drinks or sugary juices are the frequent accompaniment. Whether on the crowded streets of Mexico City or on back roads in rural areas, cases of glass-bottled soda and juice are ubiquitous at these popular spots known as puestos.
Mexicans spend about $14.3 billion annually on soft drinks, according to a 2010 study by a congressional commission.
Mexico is in a health bind. A 2007-2012 report by the national health secretariat said the country is facing “a complex public health agenda.”
“We still suffer the sicknesses of underdevelopment, like infectious diseases and malnutrition, and at the same time we’re facing the challenges of advanced nations like cancer, obesity, diseases of the heart and diabetes,” the report said.
It goes on to say that diabetes is the “major challenge that the national health system faces.”
Mexicans spend $382 million on diabetes medications annually, according to a report by the Mexico City office of consultant IMS Health.