Obesity: a new Epidemic in Latin America
A new UN study says two-thirds of people in Mexico, Chile and Ecuador are obese. The study calls epidemic frightening and finds that ‘overnutrition’ and sedentary lifestyles are costing countries tens of billions of dollars every year.
More than two-thirds of people living in Mexico, Chile and Ecuador are overweight or obese, costing their economies tens of billions of dollars every year, driving rates of disease and straining health services, according to a new UN report.
While the number of hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean has halved in the past 25 years, the region is now struggling to combat an obesity epidemic, as reported in Reuters.
Among the reasons for growing obesity, the main ones is changing diets, including more processed food that are high in salt, sugar and fat, along with more sedentary lifestyles have triggered a rising tide of obesity, experts say.
The report by the WFP and the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said over the next six decades people being overweight and obese would cost Mexico an estimated $13bn a year, Ecuador $3bn and Chile $1bn.
Undernutrition, when people do not get enough food, and obesity – itself a form of malnutrition – are two sides of the same coin, and together they inflict a so-called “double burden” of disease on people and economies, the report said.
Undernutrition impairs child growth and brain development, while obesity can led to type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
According to the World Health Organisation, obesity is an epidemic worldwide, killing 2.8 million adults every year, and obesity-related conditions now cause more deaths than hunger.
In Latin America, obesity is increasingly affecting the region’s poor, particularly women.
In Mexico, a country that faces one of the world’s most acute obesity crisis, 74% of women are obese or overweight compared with 70% of men, the report said.
The report urged food companies to play a greater role in combating obesity.
In 2014, Mexico also introduced a 10% tax on fizzy drinks, and 2016 research by the British Medical Journal found that the sugar tax led to as much as a 12% reduction in sales during the first year it was implemented.