Financial Times is running a sensationalized story this week about a nine-year-old kid in Mexico who is too fat to stand up. Who’s to blame for this sad state of affairs? The writer claims it’s the fault of “U.S.-inspired junk food.” No surprise there:
Mexico’s [obesity] problem is one becoming increasingly common in poorer countries…
Josefina Fausto, a health expert at the University of Guadalajara, says that behind the explosion in obesity in Mexico is a radical change in diet that stems from the country’s increasing insertion into the global economy.
In other words, they are eating a lot of US-inspired junk food. “A century ago, our biggest challenge was malnutrition,” she says. “Today, it is an excess of foods that are rich in cholesterol and heavy in saturated oils, sugar and salt.”
The worsening diet – the health ministry claims that consumption of vegetables has dropped 30 per cent in a decade – is compounded by a seemingly insatiable appetite for soft drinks, in particular Coca-Cola.
"A lot of U.S.-inspired junk food"? That is a convenient excuse, and it’s also wrong.
Contrary to what the article implies about "poorer countries" such as Mexico, our Southern neighbors are becoming richer by the day. Economic growth means more people in desk jobs and more money to afford labor-saving tools, like dishwashers and riding lawn mowers. But there’s a flip side to the modern conveniences that come along with this affluence: an increase in sedentary lifestyles. (For more, see our report “Small Choices, Big Bodies.”)
The Mexican government is aware of the rise in physical inactivity and is taking action to combat it by encouraging “small steps,” according to one high-ranking health ministry official quoted in the article. Financial Times, on the other hand, is helping no one by focusing only on the fattest Mexican child its reporters can find and inappropriately blaming an “insatiable appetite for soft drinks” for his predicament.
The truth is less sensationalist – whether you’re Mexican, American, or Siberian. Weight control is, and always has been, a matter of "calories in" versus "calories out." And healthy, active lifestyles are as important in combating weight gain South of the border as everywhere else in the world.