Mexico's soda lobby rejects blame for rising obesity

MEXICO CITY Wed Aug 7, 2013 6:57pm EDT

MEXICO CITY Aug 7 (Reuters) - Mexico's soda lobby fought back on Wednesday against those who blame carbonated drinks for the country's rising obesity rate, now higher than in the United States, pointing to lack of exercise and fried foods as the real culprits.

A United Nations report released last month put Mexico's obesity rate at 32.8 percent of adults, just above 31.8 percent in the United States, making Mexico the fattest country in the Western Hemisphere excluding Belize and some small Caribbean Islands.

At slightly more than 12 ounces per day, Mexican per capita carbonated drink consumption rates are among the world's highest. The country's advocacy groups have seized on this statistic to launch an anti-soda ad campaign in Mexico City subways.

But Mexico's association of soft drink producers ANPRAC on Wednesday refused to accept that high soda consumption rates are behind the obesity rise, calling the ad campaign "misinformation."

The group acknowledged the public health threat caused by obesity. But it blamed it on the lack of exercise and love of fried foods in Latin America's No. 2 economy and promised to help combat them.

"We have a responsibility to motivate people to change their behavior towards healthier lifestyles," said Emilio Herrera, the group's director. "That's what's going to help us to confront this public health problem."

The soda lobby began airing an advertisement on Tuesday encouraging healthier lifestyles, with images of people jogging and eating salads.

On its website, the group claims that soft drinks "form part of the Mexican diet."

But international health experts, including Kelly Brownell, dean of Duke University's public policy school and an obesity specialist, are skeptical of ANPRAC's arguments.

"The strongest scientific link between any category of food and obesity is with sugared beverages," Brownell said. "If you're going to address obesity, you need to begin somewhere, and why not begin where the science is strongest?"

In a June speech, World Health Organization director Margaret Chan criticized efforts by "Big Soda" to fight potential regulations by blaming obesity on poor individual decision-making.

"This is not a failure of individual will-power," Chan said. "This is a failure of political will to take on big business."

Obesity puts people at greater risk of developing diabetes, which afflicts 10.6 million Mexicans, according to Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, a leading supplier of insulin to Mexico.

Mexico's soft drink lobby includes the local bottlers of both the Coca Cola Co and Pepsico Inc.

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Comments (4)
Rafa67 wrote:
Well,what can they say? They won’t say “it’s us and we are sorry!” they blame it on fried food? there has always been fried food. lack of exercise? it’s true that kids don’t play outside anymore but,there have never been so many gyms or adults so concerned about their health (really!) but it’s not only that. If We weren’t the biggest consumers of soft drinks I would give them the benefit of the doubt.

Aug 07, 2013 8:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Rafa67 wrote:
Well,what can they say? They won’t say “it’s us and we are sorry!” they blame it on fried food? there has always been fried food. lack of exercise? it’s true that kids don’t play outside anymore but,there have never been so many gyms or adults so concerned about their health (really!) but it’s not only that. If We weren’t the biggest consumers of soft drinks I would give them the benefit of the doubt.

Aug 07, 2013 8:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
nathan01 wrote:
Of course soda is a huge culprit! When I lived in Mexico, people drank Coca Cola and other flavored sodas like they were going to run out soon. Coke for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in between. It was actually shocking. Also, what’s ironic is that you can find many of the chain stores like Walmart and Sam’s Club, with many of the American brands that we have here. There has always been fried foods and real authentic Mexican food is actually quite healthy. Even France eats a lot of fried foods, yet most of them are pretty thin. I say a lot of it has to do with processed foods which is bombarded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, hormones, pesticides, and other unnecessary chemicals. People don’t realize that the body can’t really digest some of these “foods” so it may store it as fat. Think about it! People have always eaten fatty foods, yet somehow now that we consume these products we’re fatter than ever.

Aug 07, 2013 12:07am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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