the Emerging Childhood Obesity Epidemic in Mexico: The Nutrition
|Non-communicable chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancers, and cardiovascular
diseases, among others, are rapidly replacing infectious diseases
as the major burden on global health. Worldwide, the greatest recent
mortality caused by chronic disease occurred in low and lower-middle
income countries (World Health Organization, 2005a). While
the number of deaths resulting from infectious diseases were considerable
in lower-middle income countries, in
low income nations such mortality was
high and similar in magnitude to chronic disease mortality. These
trends result in: (1) a double-burden on public health and
health-care systems particularly in economically vulnerable countries
where much of the world's population lives; and (2) significant
global mortality which may be preventable through lifestyle changes,
as many chronic diseases may be attributable to risk factors such
as smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet.
many low and low-middle income countries have undergone rapid urbanization
and economic development in the past half-century, transitions have
occurred with respect to demography, nutrition, and epidemiology (collectively
referred to as 'nutrition transition'). The adoption of new
technologies has increased exposure to novel foreign cultures and
ideologies, goods, services, and lifestyles (often from the 'West').
New employment opportunities have led to changes from rural to urban
lifestyles, from physically-demanding jobs to more sedentary labour,
and to more sedentary leisure time. Transportation has become altered
to accommodate faster systems while displacing walking, cycling or
other physical activities. Traditional diets based on indigenous staple
grains, local produce, and limited animal sources of protein have
been replaced by simplified, nutrient-poor and highly processed foods
containing large quantities of sugars and saturated fats. In countries
undergoing such a transition, changes in body composition are observed
as overweight and obesity become prevalent and may coexist
is considered a middle-income country by the World Bank (World Bank,
2005b); however, extreme inequality exists among rich
versus poor, urban versus rural, north versus south, and among indigenous
versus other population groups. While Mexico has the highest per
capita income in Latin America, 53% of the country lives in poverty (living on less than $2 per day), while 24% is extremely poor (living
on less than $1 per day). This inequality exacerbates the dual burden
of simultaneously higher rates of under-nutrition and obesity.
in other countries, the co-existence of childhood
obesity and under-nutrition may be evidence of such a nutrition
transition in Mexico. In order to design appropriate health interventions
to reduce the negative changes in body composition and health, the
determinants as well as the prevalence of both extremes in body
weight need to be investigated and documented.
The CAMBIO Research Network is developing an international,
multi-disciplinary team of researchers to investigate and address
childhood obesity in Mexico, within the context of the nutrition
transition. The project started as a collaboration between researchers
from Universidad de Guadalajara,
Jalisco, Mexico, and Queen's University,
Ontario, Canada, but our network is growing and new collaborations are currently being developed.
long-term goals are to increase research capacity and knowledge
transfer, and to promote partnerships and collaborations.
To achieve our goals, four key activities are being undertaken:
Develop and deliver an annual short
course on obesity
Develop a collaborative program of research
Facilitate faculty and student exchanges and researcher visits
Build partnerships and promote networking.
a. World Health Organization. 2005. Preventing chronic disease. A vital
Investment. Geneva, WHO.
b. World Bank. 2005. Mexico Country Brief. Available at www.worldbank.or
CAMBIO, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University,
Kingston, Canada K7L 3N6
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