by Amy Damon, Assistant Professor of Economics and Latin American Studies, Macalester College
The obesity epidemic in the United States has received notable attention, and rightly so since approximately 70 percent of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese. Some will be surprised to learn, however, that Mexico is quickly catching up to the United States in this unfortunate race. In 2010, Mexico ranked second, only behind the United States in obesity prevalence according to the OECD with nearly 39 percent of the adult population being obese and an additional 30 percent overweight. What is the anatomy of this epidemic? Are the causal factors the same in both countries? Clearly rising incomes, urbanization, changing lifestyles and diets all play a role, but how does the globalization of the food system, in particular, affect obesity rates?