Has the US exported its obesity epidemic to Mexico?

Matthias Rieger
Dr Matthias Rieger

Research has found that 20% of the increase in obesity in Mexico can be explained by exposure to US food exports.

Mexico has seen a tremendous increase in obesity and diabetes over the past decades, while trade in food and beverages with the US soared. This begs the question: is there a causal effect of trade in foods on the prevalence of obesity in Mexico? The infographic below presents the key research findings.

The research is published in the leading Journal of International Economics. For the study, the researchers matched data on anthropometrics (body measurements) of Mexican women, data on trade in Mexican food imports from the US and data on Mexican household food expenditure.

WHO warning - we are facing a global obesity epidemic

The findings point to a positive and significant effect of exposure to US food exports on obesity prevalence thereby demonstrating how globalization, through food, can affect the health of populations in other countries.

This is pertinent in light of recent warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) that we are facing a global obesity epidemic ('globesity'). The findings of this study may be relevant to fellow academics, policy-makers and practitioners interested in (over)nutrition, public health and international trade.


Download the infographic

The research was conducted by Dr Matthias Rieger from ISS, together with Dr Osea Giuntella (Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh) and Dr Lorenzo Rotunno (Assistant Professor of Economics at Aix-Marseille University).

Assistant professor
Assistant professor
Dr Osea Giuntella
Assistant professor
Dr Lorenzo Rotunno
More information

O. Giuntella, M Rieger and L. Rotunno, Weight gains from trade in foods: Evidence from Mexico, Journal of International Economics.

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Assistant Professor Matthias Rieger (ISS) researches the economics of undernutrition and overnutrition in the Global South.
Matthias Rieger

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