NAFTA or the North American Free Trade Agreement is being blamed as one of the reasons why Mexico is now suffering from an epidemic of obesity. Here are some statistics that prove that NAFTA has contributed to the rapid rise of obesity in Mexico. Statistics from 1980 showed that about 7% of the Mexican population was considered to be obese. In 2016, that number is 20.3 percent or about 1 in every 5 people in Mexico. Diabetes is a chronic disease that is linked to obesity and high sugar consumption. It is now the leading cause of death in Mexico.
So, what is it about NAFTA that has created the obesity epidemic in Mexico? The North American Free Trade Agreement removed trade barriers between Canada and the United States. It also lowered tariffs or taxes on goods coming into a country. This had some positive effects, but also some serious negative effects as well.
One of the negative effects of NAFTA is that highly processed, high sugar, high fat and high sodium foods started pouring into Mexico in record amounts. This includes foods and drinks such as soft drinks, hamburgers, pizza, cookies and chips. Fast food chains that sell such unhealthy foods also began setting up shop in Mexico. McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut became commonplace throughout the country.
Many Mexicans embraced the new foods and fast food chains as being a taste of life from the developed world. It was even seen as a sign of affluence and pride at one point. However, consumption of large quantities of burgers, meat, soft drinks and other unhealthy foods have caused a seismic shift in the health and weight of the country.
Mexico did not only import American foods, but they imported the American problem of obesity. Diseases that follow obesity and a processed diet soon became as common in Mexico as they are in the United States. NAFTA it can be said, changed the Mexican diet.
Now many people in Mexico are wondering if the flood of fast food restaurant and supermarkets that sell processed foods are a good thing. The country has seen a reduction in malnutrition, but obesity is out of control. Many farm workers have also been replaced. As in the USA, Mexico now struggles with the problems of cheap and plentiful meat and a large amount of fast food chains. When it comes to health and nutrition, NAFTA has made a lasting mark on Mexico and it is one for the worst.