Last week I laughed when I read a comment from a Mexican health insurance executive blaming a 16% increase in the cost of health insurance last year on “people getting sick more.” Then my wife said, “Diet?” and I said, hm. And now I read this great post from Structurally Maladjusted on The NAFTA Diet.
Apparently Mexico is very fat, and has become so recently:
About 70 percent of Mexican adults are now overweight, according to government estimates, more than triple the number of three decades ago. Also, about a third of the country’s schoolchildren and teenagers are overweight, making Mexicans the second-heaviest people on the planet, gaining quickly on their American neighbors.
I don’t know of any easy way to figure out what proportion of food people eat is over-processed crap, and anyway, as SM points out, correlation is not causation. Common sense tells us, however, that a free trade agreement with a country whose government-subsidized food industry is killing its customers will not be good for you.
Indeed, living as I do in a country that recently ratified CAFTA and has for the last couple decades been rushing to adopt the American way of life, I’ve seen the food culture change in only the few years I’ve been here. Grocery stores have more (and cheaper) chips and crackers and string cheese and dips and all the other fun stuff you could nominally associate with a Super Bowl party.
Also, fast food is ever-cheaper and quickly becoming competitive with more traditional rice-and-beans-based options. Costa Ricans, like Mexicans, are putting on the pounds: Only 22% of men were overweight in 1982. Now, it’s 62%.
One thing countries like Costa Rica and Mexico do have going for them is healthier distrust of the companies whose terrible products make them fat. Just try unanimously passing a federal law in the US banning junk food from public schools and you’ll note the contrast.
Even so, I have no doubt that the globalization of the American diet will someday (if not already) be seen as one of the greatest cultural and public health travesties in history.