A multi-story building is being constructed close to our home and we can’t help but notice what kind of food the construction workers consume, making their purchases at a small miscelánea store close to the construction site.
We see them go by with their three-liter classic Coca-Cola bottles and a complementary package of cookies or pastries, in a ritual that repeats itself almost every day at lunchtime.
I have no way of knowing the nature of the meals they eat at other times of the day, but just with those three liters of soda and the chips, snacks or cookies that go with them, they are consuming more than the calories needed to perform their job. Of course, these ingredients provide a quick source of energy, and quickly consumed, too, soon demanding more of the same.
Nonetheless, health issues aren’t limited to weight gain. The great levels of glucose contained in these drinks and meals can’t easily be assimilated by the body’s organs and its metabolic process on a daily basis.
Mexico is among the top countries in the world for extreme obesity, and in consequence, diabetes mellitus, both during childhood and adulthood, and the state of Oaxaca is first in Mexico.
The international media published a few days ago that the Coca-Cola company had hired scientists in an effort to convince the public that their products didn’t represent any health risks, or contribute to the development of obesity.
However, the glucose they and all the other soda producers use to sweeten their beverages is completely different from common sugar, and is harder for our bodies to digest and metabolize.
The Mexican government, with the support of the Congress and in an effort to reduce soda consumption, approved a law that authorized a significant rise in the taxes paid by the soda companies, suggesting at the same time that these drinks be replaced by fruit drinks and the consumption of sugar be limited, too.
The law also prohibited the sale of “junk food” in school cafeterias, although the prohibition should be extended to street vendors that park outside schools and sell low-quality food.
Many parents are part of the cause of these bad dietary habits, as they find it easier to give cash to their children so they can buy what they want instead of preparing them healthy and nutritious snacks.
The traditional Mexican diet, based on fresh vegetables, fruits, grains like corn and wheat, legumes like kidney and lima beans, nopal by-products, bread, and when possible, meat or fish, has been replaced, in many cases, by “pizzas,” sodas, fried and salty snacks, canned products and industrial ice cream and bread.
There’s also a very Mexican preference for fried foods, which are often fried in overcooked oils, making them harder to digest.
The main cause of death in our country are digestive illnesses and conditions, and now the consequences of diabetes, too.
Millions of our children have already been sentenced to early obesity and are potentially diabetic.
These data should be included in educational programs, but instead are widely ignored by parents and teachers.
Armando González is a journalist and broadcaster who lives in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.