1 in 4 Canadian adults obese: Statscan
03/03/2011 1:55:00 AM
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
TORONTO - One in four Canadian adults is clinically obese, compared with one in three in the United States, suggests a new study that experts describe as a grim depiction of the state of public health on both sides of the border.
The study - a collaboration between Statistics Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducted between 2007 and 2009 - concluded that 24 per cent of Canadians were obese, compared with nearly 34 per cent of Americans.
It's believed to be the first time researchers have compared obesity rates in both Canada and the U.S.
The findings echo those of a global study released last September by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which said one-quarter of Canadians could be classified as obese; two-thirds of Canadian men were overweight.
The fact that Canada fared better than the U.S. doesn't mean Canadians are off the hook, said Cynthia Ogden, co-author of the most recent study and an epidemiologist with the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
"Although the U.S. is leading the way, many other countries, including Canada, are experiencing rises in obesity levels," Ogden said.
"In both countries, there's work to be done."
The crisis south of the border represents a glimpse of Canada's future if things don't change, said Arya Sharma, scientific director for the Edmonton-based Canadian Obesity Network.
"We're a little bit behind, but we're not that much behind," Sharma said. "If we don't do something about this now, we're going to end up exactly where the U.S. is."
Obesity rates will continue to rise unless those struggling to control their weight actively seek help, and governments take the necessary steps to limit access to high-calorie foods, he added.
Obesity rates in the U.S. have been consistently higher than those in Canada during the last two decades, but some of the study's findings suggest Canadians are following in the footsteps of their southern neighbours.
Ogden said 24 per cent of Canadian women were considered obese, the same figure registered for their American counterparts 20 years ago. The latest data shows the obesity rate for women in the U.S. climbed to 36 per cent over that time.
Among Canadian men, 24.3 per cent met the definition of obesity, compared with 32.6 per cent of those in the U.S.
Ogden said the gap between the two countries can't be readily explained.
"I really think it's interesting to look at why it's so much higher in the United States," she said. "We share a border. What's going on?"
Governments and researchers would be better off trying to reduce obesity rates than evaluating the minor differences between them, said Bill Jeffery, national co-ordinator at the Centre for Science in the Public Interest.
"Instead of quibbling over minor differences, we need to recognize that now, about two-thirds of people in both countries are overweight or obese," Jeffery said.
Like our American counterparts, we need public policies to help prevent overweight and reverse the conversion of overweight to obese."
Since the late 1980s, the prevalence of obesity in Canada has increased by about 10 percentage points for men and eight for women, the study found; in the U.S. it climbed by 10 percentage points for men and 12 percentage points for women, respectively.
Among men in both countries, the increase was highest among those aged 60 to 74, while in women, obesity increased the most among those aged 20 to 39
These stats are depressing both for Canadians and Americans. I'm sure it is not new news that North Americans are obese, and obesity is on the rise. These are scary statistics nevertheless.
I'm at a loss of words as to why we aren't doing more to combat obesity as primary prevention would help with keeping numbers down in the hospital and people being on less medication. The big businesses are obviously making money from people who are obese, and get sick and have to go on meds.
Since we know that obesity is a major cause of some of the biggest killers like heart disease, and diabetes.. it bothers me that we as a continent are not doing more. Is it really up to the individual, or is it more up to the big businesses and government to help fight obesity. Anyone else have thoughts on this?