The Mexican Paradox

back to healthread                               back to the obesity page

Many of us have heard of the PIMA paradox - this is the fact that whereas the American PIMA Indians are the most obese population in the United States, their genetically similar sister tribe which moved down to Mexico, shows no obesity at all! What is the difference? First, the Mexican PIMAs eat a high carb, low fat diet and second, they have no cars or other modern conveniences so they get about 22 hours of hard labor each week. For example, it's not uncommon for the Mexican PIMA children to RUN to a school six miles away. For diversion, the adults, having no TV or cars, indulge in active running games. People live to a ripe old age, there is no obesity and heart disease is virtually unheard of.

The American PIMA Indians live just like other Americans - fast food, junk food and little exercise and the result is a whole LOT of obesity.

In a report presented at the 17th International Diabetes Federation congress in Mexico City, study author, Dr. Michael P. Stern, head of the clinical epidemiology department at the University of Texas Health Center, presented the results of his research which followed both Mexicans and Mexican Americans, studying their daily activity and diet. Stern found a similar situation to that of the PIMA Indians. There is a lot of obesity among American Hispanics but little to no obesity among Mexican Hispanics.

Dr Stern commented that:

"Mexicans were found to be leaner, to eat less fat and more carbohydrates and to exercise more than their San Antonio counterparts...This really does support the notion that U.S. lifestyles are trending in an unfavorable direction..."

Diabetes is significantly higher among Mexican Americans than their Mexican relatives living in Mexico. Mexican Americans, many of whom live the American lifestyle with cars, TV and labor saving devices combined with calorie dense fast foods and junk foods average about 1 in 10 for diabetes.

The study was financed in part by the N.I.H.

Source: AP news release