Doctors could do more to help tackle obesity in New Brunswick, says a researcher in Fredericton.

Obesity rates in Canada have tripled in less than 30 years according to a new study from Memorial University in St. John's, N.L.

The research, recently published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, shows that New Brunswick currently tops the scales with the highest number of extreme obesity cases in the country.

Few family physicians address weight issues with their patients and they aren't sure what advice to give about the issue, says University of New Brunswick kinesiology professor Gabriela Tymowski.

"I would recommend that as the first step, that physicians do speak to their patients. And the other thing is that physicians ought to be weighing their patients at every visit so that they can look at these changes and see if the situation is getting worse," said Tymowski.

Gabriela Tymowski - custom

Doctors don't know what advice to give about obesity, says University of New Brunswick kinesiology professor Gabriela Tymowski. (University of New Brunswick)

She also says there are no programs to which doctors can refer patients and many doctors aren't sure what advice to offer about the issue.

Dr. Bob Dent, medical director of the Bariatric Centre of Excellence and founder of the Weight Management Clinic at the University of Ottawa, says New Brunswick needs treatment options for people who are overweight including programs that help people change their behaviour and surgical programs.

Provinces such as Ontario and Quebec are leaders, but New Brunswick has work to do, says Dent.

"The tendency has traditionally been to sweep it all under the carpet and I think some of the other provinces have said, 'Look, we've got to stop doing this do the same and we've got to be proactive.' So I think what we have to do is not point our finger at other provinces, but try to encourage them to do the same," said Dent.

There are many causes for obesity in New Brunswick, including diet, exercise, climate and lifestyle, says Tymowski.

"We have some of the highest rates of busing to school in the country and the children who aren't bused tend to be driven, so children are not engaging in regular physical activity. We see that both children and adults have very low intakes of fruit and vegetable," said Tymowski.

The study found that if this national trend continues, nearly a quarter of Canadian adults will be considered obese within five years.