Canada's obesity rate higher since global recession: OECD

A new global study says Canadians are fatter when compared to most developed countries, with 1 in 4 Canadians deemed obese. And though the growth rate is slowing, all that fat costs the economy almost $5 billion a year.

1 in 4 Canadians are obese but the rate of increase is slowing, according to a global report

New global study says 1 in 4 Canadians are obese, higher than the 34-country average. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Canadian waistlines are expanding, and the global recession is partly to blame, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

The latest findings show 25 per cent of adult Canadians are obese. That's higher than the average rate of obesity among OECD countries (18 per cent). Still, the report notes Canada's rate of increase is one of the slowest in the group of 34 countries.

Children in Canada registered the same obesity rate as their adult counterparts — also higher than the OECD average.

And globally, there appears to be little effort to trim the fat. 

"No OECD country has seen a reversal of trends since the epidemic began," says the report.

"Many families... have been forced to cut their food expenditures, and tighter food budgets have provided incentives for consumers to switch to lower-priced and less healthy foods."

Age- and gender-adjusted rates of obesity and overweight, 2005 OECD standard population. Measured height and weight in Australia, England, Korea, Mexico and the United States; self-reported in other countries. No projections were produced in 2010 for Australia, Mexico and Switzerland. Source: OECD analysis of health survey data (OECD)

Cost of cutting fat

According to the OECD, prevention programs could avoid up to 25,000 obesity-related deaths every year in Canada.

Such measures would cost about $200 million annually — a relatively small figure considering the estimated cost of obesity in Canada was estimated at $4.6 billion in 2008.

Some countries have made aggressive moves to nip obesity in the bud.

In January, Mexico implemented an 8 per cent tax on foods exceeding 275 calories per 100 grams. Similar initiatives were adopted in Denmark, Finland, France and Hungary.

In Hungary's case, a 29 per cent increase in those taxed products led to a 27 per cent drop in sales, putting pressure on food manufacturers to remove some of the less healthy ingredients from their products.

You can read the report here.