Adult obesity rates are at all-time high
TORONTO—Obesity rates are at an all-time high, especially in certain parts of the country, say researchers, who have “mapped” the changes to illustrate how Canadians’ waistlines have expanded over time.
Overall, at least one-quarter of Canadian adults have a body mass index of 30 or greater that puts them in the obese category, concludes a study that provides a comprehensive look at rates across the country, complete with “obesity maps.”
The Maritimes and the two territories—Nunavut and the Northwest Territories—had the highest obesity rates between 2000 and 2011, with more than 30 percent of the population in these regions estimated to be obese.
B.C. had the lowest overall rates, but obesity still increased from less than 20 percent to almost 25 percent in that province.
Gotay said mapping regional rates provides more than a decade of easy-to-use visual snapshots that should help researchers, policy-makers, and the public identify where investments are especially needed to fight the obesity epidemic.
“It seems to tell us that certain areas are definitely experiencing more heavy people,” she said from Vancouver.
“In certain areas, the percentage of people who are obese is alarming and does have implications for health-care costs and quality of life down the road,” she warned.
The effects of obesity are expensive: in 2008, they were estimated to cost the Canadian economy $4.6 billion, up about 20 percent from 2000.
Being obese can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers—among them breast, prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic tumours.
The study, published yesterday in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, used self-reported BMI data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, which researchers adjusted to get more accurate obesity estimates.
Obesity expert Dr. Mark Tremblay, who was not involved in the study, said the maps give “a nice pictorial summary” of current obesity rates region by region, which is helpful in knowledge translation.
“You see across time that the colours get darker or more ominous, showing very effectively visually the transition that’s occurred in a rather short period of time,” he said yesterday from Ottawa.
The two territories and the Maritime provinces have had long-standing problems with obesity among their population, noted Tremblay, director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
“In the Maritimes, they also tend to be less active and less fit,” he said.
“We don’t see that same pattern for the north,” he added. “Those trends have been there for a while, so I guess what is concerning is that they’re not being resolved.”