|I'm now thinking the striped shirt wasn't a good idea|
By Tim Johnson | McClatchy Newspapers
Last updated: November 21, 2012 06:41:34 AM
MEXICO CITY -- With each bite into a greasy taco and slurp of a sugary drink, Mexico hurtles toward what health experts predict will be a public health crisis from diabetes-related disease.
A fifth of all Mexican women and more than a quarter of men are believed to be at risk for diabetes now. It’s already the nation’s No. 1 killer, taking some 70,000 lives a year, far more than gangster violence.
Public health experts blame changes in lifestyle that have made Mexicans more obese than anywhere else on Earth except the United States. They attribute changes to powerful snack and soft drink industries, newly sedentary ways of living and a genetic heritage susceptible to diabetes, a chronic, life-threatening illness.
... Somewhere between 6.5 million and 10 million Mexicans now have diabetes, the Health Secretariat says. While the numbers are fewer than the 20 million who suffer from diabetes in the United States, Mexico carries the seeds of an unfolding tragedy linked both to soaring obesity and shifting demographics that will heavily burden health systems.
... The once-languid pace of Mexican life has undergone radical transformation in recent decades. Crowded urban areas force long commutes on workers, and public security concerns keep them cooped up at home.
Workers who once would return to their homes for long lunch breaks, eating freshly prepared foods, no longer can do that.
“It is practically impossible to go home to eat lunch now,” said Dr. Gabriela Ortiz, a department director at the National Center for Preventative Health and Disease Control. “We ask for food to be delivered to our office. Some employees go out to the taco stands on the corner or to the street markets.”
Since tap water is widely considered unsafe, and public drinking fountains rare, most Mexicans swill a sugary drink with their meals. The average Mexican consumes 728 eight-ounce sugary drinks from Coca-Cola per year, an average of two a day, far more than the 403 eight-ounce drinks that are consumed per person annually in the United States.
“Coca-Cola is a great villain, but it is not the only one,” Avila said, adding that some 30 of Mexico’s 500 largest businesses produce snacks or other types of junk food, carbonated or sugary beverages. He said their total annual sales top $80 billion and their advertising and lobbying budgets easily trump public health campaigns.
A 2012 federal health and nutrition survey found that 64 percent of men and 82 percent of women in Mexico were overweight or obese. Obesity levels have tripled in the past three decades.
“I’m looking out my window,” said Dr. Stan De Loach, an American-certified diabetes educator who has lived most his life in Mexico, “and I see two, three, four, seven, eight people out of maybe 20 people who are obese.”
Mexico now has higher obesity rates among children ages 5 to 11 years than any other country. According to a 2012 health survey, 34.4 percent of children are obese, Ortiz said. The comparable figure in the United States is 16.9 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.