The United States is no longer the fattest among the world's populous nations.
With 70 percent of its adults being overweight and nearly one-third of its teenagers being obese, Mexico has taken over the dubious title of fattest nation from the U.S., according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
, or FAO.
Whereas 31.8 percent of American adults are considered obese, 32.8 percent of Mexican adults are also obese, according to the U.N. report. Consequently, diabetes is responsible for nearly 70,000 deaths every year in Mexico, while an additional 400,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed annually, Fox News reports
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The statistics for Mexico's youth is even more dire with the Mexican Social Security Institute finding that among children between 5 and 9 years of age, more than 28 percent are overweight or obese, while 38 percent of preteens and teenagers, ages 10 to 19, suffer from the same weight problems, the Associated Press reports
According to observers, the rise in obesity levels, particularly among Mexico's youth, stems from a growing economic gap, with 50 percent of the nation's population presently living below the poverty line.
In addition to having fewer dietary choices, those living on lower incomes tend to consume more unhealthy foods because they are less expensive and more available, according to Medical Daily.
The Mexican migration from rural communities to urban settings might also be a contributing factor. According to U.N. expert Olivier de Shutter, Mexicans who move to the city's settle in to a more sedentary lifestyle while at the same time have more unhealthy foods, such as fried foods and soda, readily available.
"Obesity and excess weight are multi-factor problems," said Carlos Labastida, of the general secretariat of Mexico’s National Autonomous University. "So they have to be approached from several perspectives, through advertising campaigns as intense as the ones people are subjected to every day for food products that aren’t very recommendable."
As obesity levels rise among Mexicans of all ages, paradoxically, malnutrition remains a problem, particularly among the nation's poor children living in rural areas.
"The same people who are malnourished are the ones who are becoming obese," Dr. Abelardo Avila, a physician with Mexico's National Nutrition Institute, told CBS. "In the poor classes we have obese parents and malnourished children.
The worst thing is the children are becoming programmed for obesity. It's a very serious epidemic."
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Though obesity levels in Mexico and the U.S. are troubling, they are not the highest in the world when you factor in smaller nations, particularly several in the Middle East and North Africa.
Egypt's population has an obesity rate of 34.6 percent, while 42.8 percent of Kuwaitis are obese according to the U.N.
The highest level of obesity worldwide is found on the Micronesian island of Nauru, where the U.N. reports that 71.1 percent of residents are obese, the AP reports.
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