Genetic & Environmental Factors Likely Contribute to Higher Obesity Rates Among Mexican Population

Jul 10, 2013, 15:56 ET from The Obesity Society

The Obesity Society Weighs in on Mexico Overtaking the US for Highest Obesity Rate

SILVER SPRING, Md., July 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Statement attributable to: Margarita Teran-Garcia, MD, PhD, The Obesity Society Council Member, At-Large-Mexico, and University of Illinois Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition.


The United Nations study isn't the first to uncover that obesity is now a more serious public health problem in Mexico than in the United States. According to data from a national Mexican survey released earlier this year, 72 percent of adults living in Mexico are overweight or obese, in contrast to 66 to 70 percent of US adults.

This increase in obesity among the Mexican population could be a result of a combination of factors, including genetic and environmental. In general, as many as 35 percent of Mexican young adults may have a genetic predisposition for obesity. According to a study of students released earlier this year, these genetic risk factors for obesity, or the FTO gene, are also associated with increased BMI and waist circumference. Such inherited traits can, in turn, lead to various health-related problems, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Early recognition of a predisposition to obesity can help young people, in particular, to fight against it. "Fat" genes may be influenced by epigenetic modifications, or changed by eating the right foods and getting more exercise. If young people learn they are at risk for obesity, they can also recognize that these healthy lifestyle changes are even more important for them to make.

The environment in Mexico, and in the US, could also be a primary contributor to this increase. As more Mexicans move into urban communities they tend to reduce exercise and eat a diet of more unhealthy, highly caloric foods. This is often seen among less affluent Mexicans, who have limited budgets and restricted access to healthier fare. 

In sum, the biology of our metabolic profile isn't well suited to a sedentary environment and readily available, higher calorie foods that are found more often in urban living environments.

The Obesity Society (TOS) is working to better understand, prevent and treat obesity. There are many TOS researchers evaluating environmental interventions to improve healthy eating and increase exercise, many of which can be implemented through effective educational and policy initiatives. In addition, the organization is encouraging the treatment of obesity as a serious health condition worldwide by providing resources and information to clinicians and policymakers through our recently launched Treat Obesity Seriously campaign: We hope others will join us in our effort. 

About The Obesity Society (TOS)
TOS is the leading professional society dedicated to better understanding, preventing and treating obesity. Through research, education and advocacy, TOS is committed to improving the lives of those affected by the disease. For more information please visit:

About the Treat Obesity Seriously Campaign
Treat Obesity Seriously is a campaign by TOS to fight obesity, a disease that affects too many Americans. The campaign was developed in collaboration with a corporate advisory council, which includes evidence-based industry organizations who have a shared commitment to help shift the dialogue from blame to solution, and treat obesity as we do other serious health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Visit to learn how to treat obesity seriously and support a solution.

SOURCE The Obesity Society