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Country report

Mexico faces diabetes epidemic

89,414 people are projected to die from diabetes-related diseases in 2012
38 new diabetes cases are confirmed in Mexico every hour

Mexico is heading towards a public health crisis from diabetes-related disease, according to new research from country’s Health Secretariat.

In 2012, a total of 89,414 people are projected to die from diabetes-related diseases, an increase of 92% from the year 2000. This figure will only increase as a fifth of all Mexican women and more than a quarter of men are at risk of diabetes. Previous estimates have claimed 70,000 Mexicans die each year from diabetes-related diseases.

 “When we project the increase in diabetes and the costs associated with it, the Mexican health system will be overwhelmed,” said Dr Abelardo Avila, a physician and population studies expert, Salvador Zubiran National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition. “It can't be paid for. By the year 2020, it will be catastrophic. By 2030, it faces collapse.”

It is estimated that between 6.5 million and 10 Mexicans currently have diabetes. Mexico is currently eighth in the global list of countries ranked by prevalence of diabetes, and international experts project that by 2025 the country will be in sixth or seventh place, with 11.9 million diabetics.

While this number is far below the 20 million diabetics in the US, it is far greater as a percentage of population (8.9% vs. 6.4%). According to the study, diabetes has been the most common cause of death in Mexico since 2000, responsible for 17.2% of all deaths.

Mexico has many risk factors suggesting an inevitable rise in the number of diabetics.

Public health experts claim changes in lifestyle that have made Mexicans more obese including fast food, sugary drinks, sedentary lifestyles, and a genetic susceptibility to diabetes.

A 2012 federal health and nutrition survey found that 64% men and 82% of women in Mexico were overweight or obese. Obesity levels have tripled in the past three decades.

Mexico now has higher obesity rates among children aged 5 to 11 years than any other country, with 34.4% of Mexican children obese. The comparable figure in the United States is 16.9%, according to the National Centre for Health Statistics.

Despite economic development over the last decade, tap water is widely considered unsafe, meaning most Mexicans have a sugary drink with their meals.

The average Mexican consumes 728,8-ounce sugary drinks of Coca-Cola per year, an average of two a day, far more than the 403,8 ounce drinks that are consumed per person annually in the US.

An estimated 30 of Mexico's 500 largest businesses produce snacks or other types of junk food, carbonated or sugary beverages, and their total annual sales top $80 billion.

It is estimated that by the middle of the century, Mexico will have 25 million elderly people, equivalent to the nation’s entire population in 1950. To make matters worse, an ever increasing number of young children are getting diabetes with 400,000 people under 15 years of age are suffering from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Every hour, 38 new diabetes cases are confirmed in Mexico, 14 in every 100 diabetics will develop kidney failure of some degree and for every five diabetics two will begin to suffer blindness.

'Diabetes ten years ago was a problem mainly among people 55 years and older. But now we see cases even in young people 12 and 13 years old,' said Reyes de Ortega of the Mexican Diabetes Association. “It’s a bomb. It’s an extremely urgent problem.”

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