Mexican Population Predisposed to Being Obese, Study Shows

Researchers from a leading university in Mexico have found that the Mexican population has a high genetic predisposition to being overweight and obese.

A key finding of the study, according to a story in La Jornada, a Spanish-language publication in Mexico, was the identification of a variant gene unique to Mexicans that alters the function of the cholesterol transporter ABCA1 and causes decreased levels of "good cholesterol."

Higher levels of HDL, also known as "good cholesterol," are responsible for cleaning arteries and can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Studies have been done of populations in Asia, Europe, and Africa, and no alternations of the gene were discovered. Researcher Samuel Canizales Quinteros of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, told La Jornada that genes alone don't explain obesity high rates.

Just like in the United States, poor diet and a lack of physical activity have also contributed to Mexico's growing obesity rates. Because Latinos of Mexican descent are the largest group in the U.S. from Latin America, obesity rates, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems, have worried health providers. And they have reason to be concerned.

The obesity rates for Mexican-American adults increased by more than 20 percent in the past three decades. About 40 percent of Mexican-Americans were obese in 2010, up from 35 percent in 2006, according to a 2012 federal study. The study included those born in the United States, as well those who immigrated.

Similarly, childhood obesity has nearly tripled since the 1980s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 17 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are now obese. For Latino and black youths, those numbers are even higher.