Posted on: August 10, 2020 at 4:06 pm
Last updated: October 14, 2020 at 5:54 pm

Over the last several decades, the obesity rate in countries across the world has risen dramatically. During this time, a close correlation between the increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity has been observed [1]. Data shows that these sugary drinks, which include soda, pop, cola, tonic, fruit punch, lemonade, sweetened powder drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks, are the single largest source of calories and added sugar in the US diet [2].

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This trend, however, is not solely an American problem. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been rising dramatically in other countries around the world, particularly in developing nations, which is directly contributing to the rise in obesity and related chronic diseases thanks to widespread urbanization and beverage marketing [3].

One country that has been particularly affected by this trend is Mexico. The country’s leaders have finally said enough is enough, and are banning the sale of soft drinks and high-calorie soft drinks to children.

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Mexican State Bans Sugar Drinks

In an effort to curb its obesity problem, the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is banning the sale of sugary drinks and junk food to children. Under the new law, stores that are caught selling soft drinks or sweets to children will face fines and possible closures, effectively putting them in the same category as tobacco and alcohol [4].

Magaly López Domínguez, the Oaxaca lawmaker who presented the bill, said that it is finally time to put a stop to an industry that has been sickening the country’s children, noting that even the most remote corners of the state, where many residents don’t have access to medicine, have coca cola.

The bill was presented more than a year ago, but with the disastrous COVID-19 situation taking place in Mexico, it has finally been pushed through.

“This health emergency makes it even more evident the damage caused by the consumption of these sugary drinks,” she said. “Its approval was timely.” [4]

Read: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Does Sugar Consumption Affect PCOS?

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Soft Drink Problem in Mexico

The Mexican people drink more soft drinks than any other nation in the world. The average citizen in the country drinks an estimated 163 liters of soda per year, which is forty percent more than the average American [5].

This is posing a serious health problem in Mexico, and every year seventy thousand of its citizens die from type 2 diabetes. Soft drink consumption has become so problematic that in 2014, the government placed a ten percent tax on every liter of soft drink and an eight percent tax on junk food to curb its citizens’ consumption.

This is a particular concern for children, Dr Salvador Villalpando, a childhood obesity specialist at the Federico Gomez children’s hospital in Mexico City, said that about 10% of kids are being fed soda from zero to six months of age.

“By the time they reach two it’s about 80%,” he said [5].

Mexico’s soft drink problem often gets blamed on a lack of clean drinking water, but Villalpando disagrees, saying that the problem is cultural more than anything else.

“Mexican mums like having chubby kids in their homes as it shows they’re feeding them properly,” he explained, “and they are so used to feeding them sodas, they don’t stop even when there is clean water.” [5]

Read: People still want plastic bottles, says Coca-Cola

COVID-19 and Soft Drink Consumption

To date, Mexico has recorded nearly five hundred thousand coronavirus cases, and over 52 thousand deaths, putting it in the third-highest spot for virus deaths behind the United States and Brazil [6].

Epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Hugo López-Gatell has called soft drinks “bottled poison”, and is blaming their consumption for the COVID-19 mortality rate in the country. The reason behind this assertion is that some of the most prominent COVID-19 morbidities are diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, all of which are associated with heavy consumption of soft drinks.

Mexico’s soft drink industry has released a statement in reaction to López-Gatell’s campaign against the drinks, citing statistics showing that Mexicans consume only 5.8 percent of their daily calories from soft drinks, and accusing him of “satanising a strategic economic activity and a product that is the preference of millions of Mexicans” [4].

Other critics have accused López-Gatell of using soft drinks as a scapegoat as the country’s virus figures continue to worsen, pointing out that he has been extremely vague and evasive in his recommendations for mask-wearing, and has pursued a policy of not testing or contact-tracing [4].

Tackling Mexico’s Obesity Problem

Whether or not Mexico’s struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic can be pinned down to it’s widespread soft drink consumption, taking steps toward limiting it will be beneficial for the health of its citizens.

Currently, 73 percent of Mexico’s population is considered to be overweight, and the resulting health problems are rampant throughout society [7].

Alejandro Calvillo, director of El Poder del Consumidor, said that the funds raised by the 2014 sugar tax has not gone toward public health as it was promised, and researchers say that it has only decreased consumption by 7.5 percent.

“When you go to these communities, what you find is junk food. There’s no access to clean drinking water,” said Calvillo [4].

The actions taken by officials in Oaxaca bring the correlation between soft drink consumption and obesity to light, and other countries that also have a high obesity rate, such as the United States, should pay attention.

The parallels between the increased consumption of soft drinks and the increased obesity rate around the world are telling, and while they may not be the sole cause of obesity, limiting their consumption will go a long way in protecting the health of people around the world.

Keep Reading: Mexico Bans Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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