By Erik Derr ( | First Posted: Jul 11, 2013 11:47 AM EDT

(Photo : Reuters)

Mexico has bounded its way to top a list of the world's most overweight industrialized nations, according to a just-released study backed by the United Nations.

Nearly 1/3 of Mexican adults are obese, topping even the United States. A longtime member of the international community's chubby club, the U.S. comes in a close second at 31.8 percent, a recent United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report shows.

The report says Mexico's new weight worries are due to a diet of high-calorie, low-cost, processed foods and less active lifestyles, as Mexican incomes rise and more residents move into metropolitan areas.

The Mexican diet has traditionally consisted of corn, beans, rice and chilies. Tortillas, a staple during most if not all meals, are made of corn meal.

Popular dishes include quesadillas, tortillas fried with cheese, tortas, hollow rolls stuffed with meat, cheese or beans, and tacos, folded tortillas with meat or refried beans and various condiments such as hot sauce and cut-up onions and cilantro.

The increased incidence of obesity has significantly raised the risk of Mexicans suffering cardiovascular disease, diabetes, degenerative joint diseases and certain types of cancers, said the World Health Organization research.

Meanwhile, weight problems are a particular risk for children in Mexico, many of whom may face the health concerns associated with obesity, but are also malnourished, the agency said.

"They are exposed to high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt, energy-dense ... foods, which tend to be lower in cost but also lower in nutrient quality," explained the WHO study.

Far from a health problem exclusive to Mexico or the United States, obesity is clearly a problem for most countries. Rates have doubled worldwide since 1980with more than 1.4 billion adults identified as overweight and 500 million considered obese in a 2008 survey.

Researchers at the WHO note fighting obesity isn't always a straightforward proposition, especially in many regions of the world where nutritional options are limited.

Still, WHO officials generally recommend people battle their bulge by limiting their intake of fats and sugars, boosting their consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts, and engaging in some sort of daily physical activity, at least 60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes per week for adults.

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