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Mexico overtakes US in obesity, grapples with weight and malnutrition problems

Published: Friday, July 12 2013 1:50 p.m. MDT

Office workers eats tacos at an outdoor food stand during lunch time in Mexico City, Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Mexico has surpassed the United States in levels of adult obesity. Almost one-third of adult Mexicans, 32.8 percent, are obese compared to 31.8 percent of Americans, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization recently released a report showing Mexico's adult obesity rate had overtaken the United States' adult obesity rate by one percentage point, even while nearly half of Mexico's population lives in poverty.

According to the new report, Mexico's adult obesity rate in 2008 was 32.8, and the United States' adult obesity rate was 31.8 percent.

The FAO report indicated that the rise in industrialized agricultural production could be to blame for the simultaneous growth of obesity and ongoing struggles with malnutrition in Mexico.

"Changes in activity and dietary patterns in developing countries are part of a 'nutrition transition' in which countries simultaneously face not only the emerging challenge of rising levels of overweight and obesity and related non-communicable diseases but continue to deal with problems of undernutrition and micronutrient diseases," the report said.

"The same people who are malnourished are the ones who are becoming obese," Abelardo Avila of Mexico's National Nutrition Institute told the Global Post. "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 problem."

There are plenty of food choices in Mexico, Global Post's Dudley Althaus wrote, but those healthier choices tend to be more expensive for the poor and working class. A more sedentary lifestyle is also taking its toll.

According to the Federacion Mexicana de Diabetes website, diabetes is among the leading causes of death in Mexico, and seven out of every 10 Mexicans are overweight or obese.

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