The High Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in Mexican Children


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Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, Direccion de Nutrición, Departamento Fisiología de la Nutrición, Vasco de Quiroga 15, Tlalpan 14000 DF, México. E-mail:


Objective: To establish the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Mexican children 10 to 17 years of age according to the percentiles from both the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF).

Research Methods and Procedures: Heights and weights were measured in children from nationally representative, randomly chosen households in the Mexican National Health Survey 2000. The study population consisted of 7862 boys and 8947 girls, 10 to 17 years of age. Measurements used were the percentage of children in the corresponding BMI categories for overweight and obesity specified by the CDC and the IOTF BMI percentiles.

Results: The children were short, with mean Z scores for height by age varying from − 0.62 ± 1.26 to −1.12 ± 1.06 in boys and from −0.45 ± 1.25 to −1.19 ± 1.12 in girls. CDC-based overweight prevalences varied by age from 10.8% to 16.1% in boys and 14.3% to 19.1% in girls, with obesity prevalences from 9.2% to 14.7% in boys and 6.8% to 10.6% in girls; these prevalences did not relate to stunting. IOTF-based excess weight prevalences were similar, with higher overweight rates (boys, 15.4% to 18.8%; girls, 18.4% to 22.3%) but lower obesity rates (boys, 6.1% to 9%; girls, 5.9% to 8.2%).

Discussion: Mexican children have one-half the overweight/obesity prevalences of U.S. Mexican-American children; however, there are higher rates in Northern Mexico, which is closer to the U.S. These escalating rates of excess weight demand new prevention, as well as management, policies.