Three-quarters of the adult Mexican population, that is, 75 percent (three out of four adults), suffer from overweight or obesity, while 35 percent of school-age children and 38 percent of adolescents present this chronic disease, says Ana Lilia Rodriguez Ventura, an academic at the School of Medicine (FM).

The specialist in pediatric endocrinology warns that an infant has a 40 percent risk of presenting adiposity if one of its parents suffers from it and it doubles to 80 percent if both parents are affected. For this reason, it is important that once a couple decides to procreate, they should do so while maintaining a normal weight and taking care of their eating habits "so as not to program" the baby in an inadequate way.

On the occasion of International Obesity Day, which is commemorated on November 12, the university academic highlights that in 2015, during the meeting of the American Diabetes Association in Boston, it was proposed that health personnel should focus on preventing adiposity because it is incurable in the short term, "but we can continue fighting to avoid its complications if we manage to reduce between five and 10 percent of the initial weight of adults and 0.5 of the Z score of the body mass index in children".

Even if a person goes on a diet, the size of the adipocytes (fat cells) can be reduced, but the number of them will remain there, "that is why it is easy to lose weight and gain it back, the ideal is prevention". Unfortunately, 25 percent of the adults who still have a normal weight in Mexico, practically a quarter of them could have excess fat, detected through a special scale that calculates the percentage of the body. "Ideally, men should have no more than 20 percent and women no more than 30 percent." If this method is not available, it can be easily deduced by measuring the waist. In minors, the ideal is that the waist/height ratio in centimeters is less than 0.5, while in adults it should be less than 88 centimeters (women) and 102 centimeters (men).

Excess weight, a disease

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicates that Mexico has one of the highest rates of obesity among the OECD member countries. In addition, 34 percent of obese people suffer the morbid stage, the highest degree of this chronic disease. The international organization places Mexico in second place among the countries with the highest rate of obesity, "the tendency begins at an early age, and Mexican children are the most likely to develop it, over the average infants living in the whole of the members of that organization (37.7 percent and 31.4 percent, respectively)".

Rodríguez Ventura estimates that the big problem is that people have not fully understood that excess weight is a disease in itself and an epidemic, an unprecedented public health problem. Even at the international level, as of 2017 "it was proposed that we coin the term adiposity, to make it clearer that being overweight or obese causes generalized inflammation in all organs, due to the increase in fatty tissue." With time it can cause pancreatic dysfunction with consequences such as pre-diabetic states or diabetes; fatty liver or non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis; in women, a polycystic ovarian syndrome in which hormone deregulation is manifested and pregnancy becomes difficult to achieve.

In the case of girls, it induces them to release sexual hormones, and puberty is brought forward; for example, at six years of age, they could start breast development and not at eight years of age when it should begin. There would also be repercussions such as gastroesophageal reflux, severe asthma, obstructive sleep apnea (snoring a lot and suddenly stopping breathing), as well as orthopedic alterations, and renal damage. In children, this problem causes premature aging and they would develop adult-onset diabetes, i.e. type 2, hypertension, or cancer, which is a cause for concern. That is why in Mexico there were high numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 in young people, because they had adiposity, in addition to its complications.

"Culturally it is thought that since they are growing nothing happens and that we should not worry about it, this is serious because there is scientific evidence that even children have excess fat weight and, as in adults, they are at risk of suffering cardiovascular or metabolic problems". The study of growth and nutritional status is important in the health care of children and adolescents because practically the organic, affective, and social problems they face at those ages are shown in a change of the normal pattern of growth and development.

During the social distancing, the world population presented an average weight gain of six kilos in adults -there are still no clear figures for children-, while in the Mexican population it was eight kilos, due to the worsening of eating habits in general.

The university specialist coordinates the "Sacbe" Program (a Mayan word meaning the Way) of Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Adiposity, which is applied at the National Institute of Perinatology, through which they observed that the eating habits associated with adiposity worsened because people were more hours sitting, did a less physical activity or exercise, and spent several hours in front of screens, had short and/or poor-quality sleep, and increased the consumption of sweeter products due to anxiety and/or sleep disturbances.

For the expert, a greater impetus is required for prevention campaigns, for health personnel to become more aware and she states that the front labeling of food and non-alcoholic beverages is a good measure, but not enough. "Sadly, there are people who, even if they see five hexagons, buy these foods because they have no other option given that salaries in Mexico are precarious, they have to work long hours or their workplaces are very far away and that takes away time to exercise, prepare healthy food and stop consuming processed foods," she said.

She considered it necessary to attack this public health problem from several angles: improving salaries, relocating workers' homes close to their work centers to avoid too much time spent commuting, and promoting physical activity. Remember that November 14 is World Diabetes Day. Some international bodies suggest the term diabesity, due to the close association it has with obesity, since both conditions go hand in hand, and practically 80 to 90 percent of adults suffering from type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. For the health sector, treating complications such as renal insufficiency implies a high cost.

Source: UNAM