U.S. Export of Obesity leads to Diabetes Crisis in the Developing World

As the rate of obesity in the United States continues to rise, countries in the developing world such as Brazil, Mexico, and China have seen their obesity rates grow exponentially. That has led to diabetes being one of the leading causes of death among these regions. The crisis is so bad in Mexico that it is now considered the world’s most overweight nation. The growing rate of diabetes is putting pressure on the country’s healthcare system and is affecting the overall cost to future economic growth. In the near and distant future, a growing portion of these national budgets will have to be put towards healthcare. That means less funding for other important matters such as education, R&D, and other public services.

Poor nutrition is one of the leading factors of these alarming changes in the developing world. Though not a direct correlation, the rise of the middle class and an abundance of cheap junk food available to the poor have led to many people changing from traditional, healthy eating habits to a diet which encompasses a combination of soda, processed foods, sugary snacks, and so on.

Global Obesity Map

The issue is most pressing in Mexico: a third of the population now qualifies as obese. To combat this emerging crisis, the government has recently enacted a tax on all sugar-based beverages, better known as the “soda tax.” The new tax is set at 10% per liter which is a compromise between the opponents and the proponents of the law. As many champion Mexico’s progress on the issue, others worry the government will not adequately fund, nor properly enforce the law. Some even accuse the government of trying to save face in light of such a crushing crisis to gain favor with the public, yet many wonder if they intend on ensuring the success of this new mandate.

One of the largest sub-groups hit with alarmingly high rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are the young because they are so immersed in the growing junk food culture in the developing world. Unlike countries in the developed world, many of these emerging regions, such as Latin America and Africa, have subpar healthcare systems that cannot handle the expenses related to a growing number of people with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. There is also the issue of government corruption, instability, and complexity, which only adds to the growing crisis.

This new push to tax sugary products and/or junk food should expect to receive relentless push back from the food and beverage industry as things progress. While these issues may be very new to some parts of the world, many countries, including the United States, are watching closely the short-term results of Mexico’s new soda tax to potentially alter their own paths forward.


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