Soda Tax in Mexico

Type 2 diabetes recently became one of the leading causes of death in Mexico. The number of diabetes-related deaths will continue to rise. Furthermore, scientists have predicted that at least half of Mexico’s population will have diabetes by 2050. Conditions such as being overweight and obesity have strong links to the development of Type 2 diabetes. In response to the growing health concerns associated with obesity and diabetes, the soda tax in Mexico has been implemented to reduce liquid sugar consumption and promote healthier lifestyle choices.

Tax on Soda

Mexico has historically been a top consumer of sugar-sweetened beverages. In 2012, the average person consumed 176 liters per year. Mexico made the world’s top consumer of soda per capita.

The popularity of sugary drinks has come with negative consequences. As soda consumption rose, the number of people suffering from obesity and diabetes in Mexico also increased. While sugar-sweetened beverages were not the only drivers of the weight-related problems plaguing the country, they did receive the most attention from health officials.

In 2014, Mexico began taxing all sugar-sweetened drinks. The tax roughly increased the price of the sugary drinks by one peso per liter. The purpose behind the soda tax was twofold:

  1. Reduce the consumption of liquid sugar that contributed to high obesity and diabetes rates.
  2. Increase funding for public health-based programs to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

Mexico’s Struggle with Diabetes

The soda tax in Mexico was an important step in the country’s fight against diabetes. In 2018, a report found that nearly one-third of the Mexican population was living with diabetes. The most common form diagnosed was Type 2 diabetes, which causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to be higher than normal. The exact cause remains unclear, but obesity was strongly linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Link Between Obesity and Diabetes

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a healthy diet includes the consumption of about 2,000 calories per day. The average Mexican adult consumes over 3,000 calories per day. Mexico has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. The number of Mexican adults suffering from obesity rose from 20.5 million in 2012 to 24.3 million in 2016.

Food insecurity and undernourishment were the leading causes of obesity, especially among the poor. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that unreliable access to food contributed to multiple health conditions. In addition, much of the food produced in Mexico was high in carbs and fats. Mexican farmers favored crops that were cheap and easy to grow (like corn) instead of focusing on their nutritional value. Consequently, the average Mexican diet has higher carbs and fats than recommended.

The poor have been the most vulnerable to obesity. A study found that poor communities had obesity rates 145 percent greater than wealthy communities. The stress of food insecurity and undernourishment impair the poor from making the best food choices for their health.“When household resources for food become scarce, people choose less expensive foods that are often high in calories and low in nutrients,” explained the FAO.

Did the Soda Tax Work?

Diabetes has no cure. While medication is a big part of treatment, most doctors recommend a lifestyle change for diabetics looking to keep their blood glucose levels under control. The “Soda Tax” sought to help with the lifestyle change by saving people who avoided sugary drinks money.

Since 2014, the sales of sugar-sweetened beverages have dropped throughout Mexico. Sales dropped by 5.5 percent the first year. By the second year, sales were down by 9.7 percent. The sales of untaxed beverages increased by about 2 percent. However, the calorie intake of the average person has remained unchanged.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

diabetes in India
In today’s world where diets are high in refined sugars and lifestyles are low in exercise, more and more individuals than ever are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This problem is especially bad in people of South Asian origin who are six times more likely to contract diabetes than Caucasians.

Type 2 diabetes differs from type 1 in that type 1 sets in at a very young age and is considered to be caused mostly by genetics whereas type 2 diabetes is viewed as a “lifestyle disease,” although genetic disposition may play a role. High amounts of sugar consumption combined with a lack of exercise can result in damaging the pancreas’ ability to produce and regulate insulin.

While diabetes is generally considered to be a manageable illness in countries like the United States, it is a different story for those diagnosed with diabetes in India and other, poorer countries. A higher number of Indians have diabetes than residents of the U.S. do, and many of them must endure without treatment. Indian hospitals are host to many patients suffering from diabetes’ worst consequences, including blindness, kidney failure, coma and death.

India is a developing nation, meaning it is in a transitional economic phase, like Britain was during the Industrial Revolution. This means more and more people are working sedentary jobs and eating out more often. Working a nine-to-five office job leaves little time for exercise, and restaurant food is generally considered to be worse than food prepared at home due to the large portion sizes and high amounts of calories and saturated fats. This changing lifestyle combined with Indians’ predisposition to diabetes is resulting in a skyrocketing number of cases, with an estimated 65 million people in India currently living with diabetes. This number is expected to increase to 109 million over the next 20 years.

While it is unclear why South Asians have this genetic predisposition to diabetes, there are many theories to attempt to explain it. One such theory is a study from Glasgow University that claims South Asians’ muscles do not burn fat as efficiently as European’s muscles do. The study found that the genes responsible for fat metabolism were significantly lower in South Asians, and this may be the reason why people of South Asian descent more easily gain weight and develop diabetes. Additionally, because diabetes is genetic, there is concern that the number of people developing type 2 diabetes now will lead to a higher number of babies born with diabetes in the future.

Diabetes is a condition that stays with people all their lives. There is no cure or easy solution. Treatment is costly, and for Indians living on less than $2 a day, their income is not enough to afford the everyday management that the condition requires. Even many people who have bypassed the poverty line do not have the means to treat their illness. In fact, many people do not even know they have diabetes until symptoms become severe. In a country like India where only 10 percent of the population has health insurance, the best course of action is to educate people on diabetes prevention.

Diabetes can be avoided by eating healthy foods like fruit and vegetables, and exercising regularly. However, even in countries like the U.S. where people know how they should be living, people find it difficult to change their lifestyle. People of South Asian descent will have to work even harder than other races to prevent diabetes due to their genetics, and whether or not they will is worrisome. An aggressive anti-diabetes campaign, better nutrition for children and an improved health care system will all be needed to combat the diabetes epidemic in India. Other countries that are struggling with this disease include China, Indonesia and Pakistan.

— Taylor Lovett 

Sources:, BBC, New York Times
Photo: Health Me Up