Snapshot Of Diabetes In Mexico
One fifth of Mexican women and more than a quarter of men are at risk of diabetes. Diabetes is the country’s largest killer, with a yearly death rate around 70,000. Photo by malias via Flickr.
November 23, 2012

The diabetes numbers in Mexico are stark. One fifth of women and more than a quarter of men are at risk. Diabetes is the country’s largest killer, with an annual death rate around 70,000.

The country is second in overall obesity, after the United States, and is also home to the highest rate of childhood obesity (ages 5 to 19) in the world. Mexico also leads the world in soft drink consumption. The average per capita consumption of soda in Mexico is 43 gallons a year.

It’s taking a toll on public hospitals. The Kansas City Star:

Already, some 150,000 Mexicans receive kidney dialysis, but nearly the same number are denied treatment for lack of insurance, said Dr. Abelardo Avila Curiel, a physician and expert in population studies at one of Mexico’s most prestigious medical centers, the Salvador Zubiran National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition.

“When we project the increase in diabetes and the costs associated with it, the Mexican health system will be overwhelmed. It can’t be paid for. By the year 2020, it will be catastrophic. By 2030, it faces collapse,” Avila said.

But even modern prevention devices are sometimes out of reach.The New York Times:

For diabetics in the developing world, the most basic tools necessary to keep their illness in check represent a major expense. Yet doing without them can be far more expensive in the long run, and harmful to their health.

Many diabetics in Mexico and other developing countries are finding themselves unable to work, jeopardizing their families’ livelihood. Ms. Sánchez once supplemented her pension by selling clothes to her neighbors, but her painful feet now restrict her mobility.

A study this spring conducted by Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy states the issue is clouded by industrialization and globalization. One key factor was the 1991 signing of NAFTA:

Mexican diets shifted from traditional food staples toward energy-dense, processed foods and animal-source foods—which tend to be higher in fats and added sweeteners. In fact, from 1988 to 1999—the period in which NAFTA was negotiated, signed and put into effect—the average daily energy obtained from fat in Mexico increased from 23.5 percent to 30.3 percent (a 28.9 percent increase). In the same period, per capita consumption of total carbohydrates declined (from 59.7 to 57.5 percent) but consumption of refined carbohydrates increased, rising by 6.3 percent between 1984 and 1998 (soda consumption also increased 37.2 percent).