For countries with rich culinary traditions that date back to the Aztecs and Incas, Mexico and Peru have developed quite a taste for modern food fashions. Mexicans quaff more fizzy drinks than any other country; Peru has the highest density of fast-food joints in the world. Chile, one of the world’s biggest exporters of fruit, doesn’t eat much of it: processed foods account for more than half an average Chilean’s shopping basket. Even in slender Brazil, the eating of sweets and junk food has risen fivefold in 30 years.
Not all waistlines have met this barrage of sugar, salt and fat in the same way, but across much of Latin America and the Caribbean the trend stands out like a muffin top. The Food and Agricultural Organisation, a UN agency, says the region has become the most overweight in the developing world. In contrast to 1990, when the fat epidemic took off, far more years of healthy life are now lost in Latin America through overeating than through hunger.