MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (JULY 10, 2013) (REUTERS) - Mexico has overtaken the United States in levels of adult obesity according to a recentUnited Nations report that blames an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and an abandonment of traditional dietary habits in the Latin American country.
According to the recent United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation report, 32.8% of Mexicans were categorised as obese, compared to 31.8% of Americans, with mouth-watering tacos and tortas blamed the country's for the country's surging obesity rates.
At Mexico's National Institute of Medical Science and Nutrition, investigator Dr Abelardo Avilareveals that when overweight Mexicans are included, the true figure for adults is upwards of 70% and about a third of Mexican children also have weight problems.
"From 1999 to 2006 and 2012, an explosive increase (in obesity) was reported. At the moment, more than 70% of the adult population is obese and overweight. In children it's about 35%. We're really in a situation which is an epidemiological alert," he said.
Dubbed Mexico's other enemy, Dr. Avila says the country is at war with another threat...this time against obesity.
"We are at a point of no return. We either resolve it or we lose the country, the collapse of the health system. The health system cannot collapse without the collapse of the country. We can now say it is a national security problem, an epidemiological alert and national security," he added.
Alejandro Calvillo, a member of the expert panel and director of El Poder del Consumidor, orConsumer Power, a nonprofit group focused on obesity, told Reuters Mexicans are turning away from a traditional diet.
"The main cause for this is the deterioration of healthy habits. The high consumption of soft drinks, we are the country with the highest consumption of soft drinks in the world, 163 litres per person annually. Obviously, it is related to this but also to the abandonment of the traditional diet and the consumption of junk food," he said.
To combat obesity, the World Health Organisation recommends an hour of daily exercise a day and increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables.
This Mexico City resident blames a busy lifestyle in the sprawling metropolis for the epidemic.
"It's because of the consumption of junk food. We're always in a hurry. We don't have a place nor a time to eat nor do we have space to do sport or another activity," said local Enrique Morales.
Mexico's obesity crisis is also weighing heavily on its public health system with hospital resources stretched and long waiting lists for fat-fighting operations such as gastric bands and bypasses.
According to official figures, obesity and related health problems such as diabetes easily surpasses the country's annual death toll from its bloody drugs war.