Based on simple observation from several trips south of the border, we assumed that the population of Mexico can be as portly as any populace, but not according to the headlines. From breathless headlines, websites and blog posts, it seems that Mexico is breaking all records:
This recent one from The Economist’s website:
… Mexico has become one of the most overweight countries on earth, even more so than the United States; a quarter of its men and a third of its women are obese. Indecorously, the country has even come up with figures on figures: the Mexican Diabetes Federation says that among women between 20 and 49, the average waistline is 91.1cm (35.9 inches), more than 10cm above the “ideal” size. Stores are now full of large- and extra large-sized clothing. …
This prompts a small-talk discussion with colleagues, after a satisfying repast of carne asada, queso and chile relleno at the local hole-in-the-wall.
“Hey, I just read that Mexico is getting tubbier and tubbier”
Generic response #1: “With food like this, it’s not hard to see why”
Generic response #2: “Yep, I read that too, Mexico is like the fattest country in the world. Too many tamales.”
Google chimes in, and provides the following:
From Huffington Post, a video: “Obesity Burdens Mexican Economy”
According to Medical News Today, the U.S. of A. and Mexico lead the pack, or rather struggle along way in the back, panting and huffing: “USA and Mexico Are The Fattest Countries in the World”
From Fox News, fair and balanced on the weight scale: “Mexico Becomes Second Fattest Nation in the World”
Here’s the Economist again, from 2006 (they must really have it for Mexico)
The statistics are impressive, and alarming. According to the OECD, Mexico is now the second fattest nation in that group of 30 countries. A health poll in 1999 found that 35% of women were overweight, and another 24% technically obese. Juan Rivera, an official at the National Institute of Public Health, says that the combined figure for men would be about 55%, and that a similar poll to be carried out next year will show the fat quotient rising. Only the United States, with combined figures of over 60%, is ahead.
We could say that a Muy Gordo Mexico is pretty much conventional wisdom.
Except that it’s not.
Not even close.
Mexico is #15 and the U.S. is #7 in general lipidity, behind a gaggle of obscure South Pacific island nations, with names like Nauru (huh?) and Nieu (what?) and Samoa (ah, yes… no surprise there. Big ol’ offensive linemen are Samoan). According to a BMI study and database maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO?), the USA and Venezuela are tops amongst scale-tippers, with Australia, New Zealand and even Greece belly-bumping ahead of Mexico.
(Yes, yes, we know, studies are biased and slanted and have ulterior agendas, but as far as accuracy and reliability, if you can’t trust a bunch of nameless, faceless, supra-national technocrats in Brussels, who can you really trust?)
Here’s the neat interactive map:
and the list:
Admittedly, Mexicans are way on up there on the MTI*, much higher that clean-living Italians (#68), futsal-playing and samba-dancing Brazilians (#73), and basically starving Eritreans (dead last at $192). But sorry, Fox News et al., they most certainly are not #1 or #2.
What’s the deal with all these South Pacific Islanders ballooning up? The theory is that increased contact with western nations like New Zealand and Australia has meant the native diet of taro root, poi, grubs and fish being supplanted by delicious staples like pizza, Twinkies and pork rinds, washed down with gallons of Coke and Slurpees. Compounding the problem, on a small island opportunities for healthy exercise are limited (it’s a small place … start running, and you run out of room, you see?)
So is it the delicious albondigas and empanadas that’s making Mexicans twice as rotund as say, Macedonians? No, not so very much. Turns out it’s partially due to sugary, fizzy drinks. Although it may kill you, all that high-fructose corn syrup the US produces these days has got to go somewhere. Don’t blame KO and its sweetly growing dividend, it’s just the delivery vehicle.
Blame Earl Butz instead (who?)
Butz was the creepy** Nixon-era Secretary of Agriculture who admonished farmers to “get big and get out”, plant “fencerow to fencerow“, and was therefore almost single-handedly responsible for spectacular increases in grain production, driving small family-owned farms out of business, and inflicting Willie Nelson’s execrable nasal laments on the nation in Farm Aid concerts.
All that extra corn did go somewhere… and that’s about the time that waistlines started to get bigger. Here in the US, in Mexico, and in Kiribati (huh, where?)
Not the whole story, but certainly part of it.
That’s it for today, folks, thanks for dropping in and visiting for a spell. Go visit some other posts on food and agriculture, if that’s your thing (here, here and here). Otherwise, a simple subscription by Email will deliver occasional updates into your inbox. No spam, though. Spam will make you fat, and who knows what’s really in it?
*Muffin Top Index
** Butz was fired for making crass, race-based gaffes. Later on, he graduated from being a bigoted creep, to a bigoted tax-evading creep. I’m sure that’s not the legacy he would have wished for, but there you go.
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