Obesity Stigma: A Heavy Weight to Carry
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Obesity Stigma: A Heavy Weight to Carry

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Sofía Garduño By Sofía Garduño | Journalist & Industry Analyst - Fri, 03/03/2023 - 09:05

The World Obesity Federation (World Obesity) reported that one in every five women and one in every seven men will be living with obesity by 2023. If countries do not prioritize this issue, many lives will be affected as people living with obesity require treatment and care. 

Over 1 billion people worldwide are now obese, according to WHO. The Americas region reports the highest rates of obesity worldwide, according to the World Obesity report

In Mexico, 39.1% of adults over 19 years old are overweight and 36.1% are obese, according to the ENSANUT 2018. Mexico is also one of the 11 countries where half of all women live with obesity and one of the nine countries where half of all men live with obesity. It is forecasted that by 2030 Mexico will be one of the countries with the highest prevalence of obesity among men. According to World Obesity, if obesity is not addressed, over 40% of Mexican children between 5 and 19 years old will be living with obesity by 2030.

Obesity is the accumulation of fat in the body that can occur due to genetic, hormonal, behavioral and socioeconomic causes, explains Guillaume Corpart, Founder and CEO, Global Health Intelligence to MBN. Obesity has important health impacts as it can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome, among other complications. 

Those who live with obesity have to also live with the burden of weight stigma, which refers to the negative ideas associated with obesity. Those living with obesity are sometimes unfoundedly considered to be lazy or have bad hygiene. They are also considered to be less attractive, among other stigma, according to World Obesity. Some forms of weight discrimination can even be more prevalent than discrimination based on race or ethnicity, reads an article of BMC Medicine. These practices have negative effects on the physical and psychological health of people. 

The violence that obese people suffer is based on the prejudices that promote hate towards the bodies that do not fit into the stereotypical body image. Those who suffer from overweight and obesity are also stigmatized because the condition is perceived to be a matter of personal responsibility, while the complexities of living in an obesogenic environment are often ignored, says Lesly Vejar, Researcher, National Institute of Public Health’s CINyS

Meanwhile, obesity can also have negative effects on the economy. For example, in 2019, obesity cut 2.1% of Mexico’s GDP amid chronic diseases and its impact is expected to increase. The OECD forecasts that by 2050, obesity and its related diseases will represent 8.9 percent of health spending, as reported by MBN.

To face this problem, it is essential to implement public policies that favor the population’s health, but it is also necessary to deploy action plans tailored to address obesity. “Those countries where obesity is already significant will require a strong prevention and management approach to ensure that those living with obesity are not left behind,” reads World Obesity’s report. 

Mexican authorities have taken several measures to prevent and reduce obesity, including the implementation of a law that mandates the clear labeling of excess sugar and fat content on food packaging. According to the organization El Poder del Consumidor, the impact of labeling led to the reformulation of 56% of the food industry's products, in which the amount of sugar, fat, sodium or calories was reduced, as reported by MBN.

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