A new report claims the obesity problem in Mexico that has led to many of its people becoming overweight thanks to poor diets has roots in free trade.
The New York Times published a detailed story Monday that looked at how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — a deal President Donald Trump has criticized countless times — has led to an influx of high-calorie, processed foods and drinks, along with animal products, making its way from the United States to Mexico.
According to the Times, many Mexicans are hooked on their American-style diet of fast food, hot dogs, chips, soda, and other high-calorie, low-nutrient items.
NAFTA was signed in 1994 and opened the floodgates of international trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. America's southern neighbor had struggled with undernourishment before that, but the deal brought low-cost processed food and drinks over the border that have replaced traditional Mexican staples in many homes.
In contrast, Mexico sends fruits and vegetables to the United States.
Juan González Hernández, 64, is a community leader in San Juan Chamula and told the Times that Mexicans' new diet has taken over their lives.
"American food and products dominate our lives," said González, a diabetic. "Everyone is sad about the changes but, at the same time, we still go to Sam's Club and McDonald's."
Added Gabriel Ruiz Barbosa, "I know this stuff is bad for me, but I can't stop. My cardiologist says I should look after myself, but I'm very stubborn.
"I'm afraid that one day I'm going to have a heart attack and die."
The rise in trade between Mexico and the U.S. has also led to fast food restaurants and warehouse-style stores like Sam's Club setting up shop in Mexican cities. That means food prices have dropped — and so has food quality.
It was reported in 2013 that Mexico had overtaken the U.S. as the most obese. At the time, 70 percent of Mexicans were overweight and a third of that group was obese.
According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 38.2 percent of American adults and 32.4 percent of Mexican adults were obese as of 2015. Mexico, however, has more overweight citizens — more than 70 percent.
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