What is one of the leading causes of death in Mexico? If you said the drug war, you would be right. That continuing calamity has taken more than 110,000 lives over the past decade. But a killer that has claimed far more lives, if not headlines, is Type 2 diabetes. That preventable illness kills 70,000 people each year in Mexico.
The public’s great thirst for Coca-Cola and other sugary beverages, based some say on culture, some on the lack of potable water, contributes to this national health crisis. Mexicans consume almost 500 cans of sugar-loaded soda per person every year. Mexico leads the world in fatalities—about 24,000 annually—linked to the overconsumption of sugar. Coca-Cola, which controls more than 73 percent of the country’s soft-drink market, is indeed killing Mexicans.
Fortunately, a 10 percent tax instituted in 2013 on sugar-enriched drinks is having the desired effect. In its first year, the tax reduced consumption of sugary drinks by 12 percent. That approach is something the United States, which has its own problems with the overconsumption of sugary drinks, might want to consider. An estimated 86 million Americans over age 20 are on their way to Type 2 diabetes. Also effective in encouraging healthier choices have been warning labels, required by some U.S. states, noting that consuming beverages with added sugars “contributes to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.” The international purveyors of sugary beverages might pause to consider how their aggressive marketing thwarts public health initiatives in Mexico—indeed all over the world.