Coronavirus could hit Mexico’s high obesity, diabetes rates


Lourdes Sanvicente, 45, left, and a coworker wear protective face masks at the direction of the stand’s owner, as they sell tamales, sandwiches, and pastries at a street stand in Mexico City, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Sanvicente, who doubts the existence of the new coronavirus, says both she and her husband work as street food sellers, together earning 320 pesos (around $13.50) per day to support themselves and their five children. “There is no other option,” she says, “I have to provide for my kids.” (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic could be especially deadly in Mexico because of the country’s high rates of obesity and diabetes, a coalition of consumer and health advocacy groups said Wednesday.

The Alliance for Food Health said in a report that four of the first five coronavirus deaths in Mexico involved people with diabetes.

Mexico has the highest diabetes rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and one of the highest obesity rates, with 72.5% of adults overweight or obese.

Vendors wearing protective face masks wait for shoppers at the popular San Juan food market in Mexico City, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Mexico’s capital has shut down museums, bars, gyms, churches, theaters, and other non-essential businesses that gather large numbers of people, in an attempt to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Paulina Magaña, a researcher for Consumer Power, said Mexico’s 11 million diabetes cases “make this scenario a petri dish for COVID-19,” the disease caused by the virus.

Experts say underlying conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity can make health outcomes far worse for coronavirus patients. For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

Some communities along the border, which are predominantly Hispanic, also have high obesity rates.

A study released earlier this month named the South Texas border town metroplex of McAllen-Edinburg-Mission as “Most Overweight and Obese Cities in the U.S.” Coming in second were the Louisiana towns of Shreveport and Bossier. The healthiest cities were in California: San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward, followed by Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Texas border city of El Paso ranked 31st in the list of “Fattest Cities,” while San Diego came in 86th. Tucson, which is not far from the border, ranked 77th.

A man wearing a face mask walks past street stalls selling food, most of which were already open for business for the day, in Mexico City, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. While some businesses have shifted to work from home and more citizens are observing social distancing measures to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, many Mexicans who live day to day from what they can earn selling or scavenging in the streets say they do not have that economic luxury and must go on working as long as they can. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Abelardo Ávila, a researcher at the National Institute for Medical Sciences and Nutrition, said, “The majority of the deaths that will occur in Mexico during the current epidemic will be associated with the serious problem of obesity.

Border Report’s Sandra Sanchez contributed to this story.

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