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Obesity In A Westernised Latin America

Latin American culinary traditions date back thousands of years to indigenous populations such as the Aztecs and Incas, and combined with more modern influences from Africa and Europe has resulted in a generally very well balanced and healthy diet. However, in recent years Latin Americans have started to get a taste for more western food options. With an increasing rate of obesity in countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Peru, the respective governments are considering furthering their research and focus on weight-loss pharmaceutical products.


Changes In Tradition And Diet

South American desire for fast food is demonstrated in the fact that Mexicans drink more fizzy drinks than any other nation in the world. Peru, similarly, has the highest density of fast food restaurants in the world and Chile exports the largest amount of fruit due to lack of demand. According to The Economist, even the body-conscious Brazilians have shown a weakness to modern foods with the number of Brazilians eating sweets and junk food rising five-fold in the last 30 years.

Not all nations or South Americans have given into the temptation that Western consumerism and brands present. However, according to the UN agency, The Food and Agricultural Organisation, Latin America has become one of the most overweight continents in the developing world. In correlation to the increase of obesity related illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, the need to treat such diseases has also risen. The problem is especially prevalent in Mexico where the obesity problem is similar to the figures from their North American neighbours.

Stepping Up To The Challenges Of Obesity

Although many countries in South America now face the challenges of obesity and the strain it causes on the health and welfare system, many countries are stepping up to this very challenge. According to the World Health Organisation, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay have agreed to introduce measures to improve school meals, provide drinking water and restrict the sale of processed food.

Nations such as those mentioned above that are trying to tackle obesity, face a number of social and economic problems that makes their task even harder to manage. With problems such as high levels of crime, traffic and pollution, introducing and promoting outdoor activity schemes for children has presented the governing bodies with a further problem to tackle. The efforts of Governments trying to implement healthier eating schemes have been met by strong opposition by the food and drink industries. Mexican Senators are bracing themselves for the onslaught and backlash by these strong often Western conglomerates as they look to introduce a 20% tax on fizzy drinks later this year. The strength of the large fast food and fizzy drink companies has also affected local industries as smaller local producers find it difficult to compete with such companies and their multi-million pound marketing budgets. Along with their large budgets, their often slick and efficient distribution systems make the products accessible to all. Coupled with a common strive for progression in society by South Americans has resulted in the Government’s healthy food message being ignored by the majority. This has created an interesting modern day phenomenon of people living side by side in the poorest communities with malnutrition whilst others are obese.

Opportunities And A Look To The Future

As the obesity problem in Europe and the United States became more prevalent, new pharmaceutical products as well as alliances between healthy eating and medical organisations began to increase. With a relatively new rise in the obesity problem within Latin America, the pharmaceutical market could be set to witness a sudden rise in demand for diet and healthy-living related products. In general South Americans as well as those living in other developing countries seek to emulate the Western, Americanised way of life.

As the problem of obesity and obesity related diseases increase, one can only hope that Latin America soon witnesses a return to their more traditional and/or healthier eating patterns before it is too late to reverse. With a growing middle-class, Latin America presents pharmaceutical companies with an array of complex health issues in what is still seen as a developing continent.