“It is a strange drink because it’s black. I like it more than other soft drinks”, says a teenager in a fast food restaurant in Mexico City, sipping from a cola drink. A girl next to him says: “The very first thing I do when I get up in the morning is take a soda from the fridge”.
Mexico is the world’s fattest country. Figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that more Mexicans are obese than in any other country. Consumption of soda and carbonated drinks, together with fast food, are a major contributing factor in this growing obesity epidemic.
The numbers are terrifying. According to Alejandro Calviño, president of ‘El Poder del Consumidor’ (The Power of the Consumer), “excess weight and obesity are the cause of the most prevalent life-threatening diseases in Mexico”. An estimated 70% of Mexican adults are overweight or obese - one in three women and one in men. Mexico is also the country with the highest number of children between 5 and 11 years who are overweight.
“It is not a problem of aesthetics; it's a problem of public health because the death rate as a consequence of diabetes is 80 per 100.000 inhabitants. This causes very high costs that the Government is not able to deal with”, says Calviño.
Vitamin T vs. fast food
At this point, obesity and excess weight have taken on epidemic proportions, and they are propelled by a flood of adversting of un-healthy products. Making matters worse, healthy food is more expensive. Young people, who are most inclined to adopt bad eating habits, spend many hours a day watching television and ‘consuming’ the advertising, while eating their pizzas and drinking their sodas, “an explosive combination”, says Calviño.
Between 11 and 12 % of the world’s production of Coca Cola goes to Mexico, leading Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, to condemn the ‘coca-colization of diets’ in Mexico.
Alejandro Calviño adds that moderate consumption of Mexico’s ‘Vitamin T’ - tacos, tortillas, tamales and tequila - is not the problem but, “obesity is caused by a change in eating habits and the introduction of highly processed food”.