Science

Canada's obesity epidemic worsening, study finds

An eight-year survey shows that Canadian women, younger men, smokers and low-income individuals are most likely to become obese.

An eight-year survey shows that Canadian women, younger men, smokers and low-income individuals are most likely to become obese.

Statistics Canada's National Population Health Survey on Obesity tracked almost 11,000 Canadians aged 20 to 56 in from 1994-95 until 2002-03.

The department concluded that in that time period, 1.1 million adult Canadians went from being overweight to obese.

The findings show that a greater number of men than women jumped from a normal weight range to being overweight, but the women were more likely to add pounds from overweight to obese.

Overweight men in their 20s and 30s stood a better chance of becoming obese than overweight men in their 50s. Obesity was also more likely to strike overweight women in their 20s than those in their 50s.

Overweight male smokers were almost 50 per cent more likely to become obese than non-smokers, a finding that contradicts earlier suggestions that showed smokers less likely to be obese.

These latest figures worry Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Island.

"[Canadians] are going to be looking forward to a life expectancy that is shorter and associated with more problems and less pleasant outcomes than their parents," he says.

Income also plays a factor in weight gain. The study found that men and women living in a high-income household were 40 per cent less likely to become obese.

The risk of becoming obese was almost 50 per cent lower among overweight women who reported occasional drinking, compared with those who never drank. 

The study also examined geographic differences, but unlike previous research, the authors found no relationship between region of residence and the risk of becoming obese.

           
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Obese parents increased the risk that their children would also become obese, according to the study, which also concluded that interventions that focus on prevention may be more effective than efforts to lose weight.

In a report released on Wednesday, the Association for Canadian Studies said 48 per cent of Canadian adults are overweight and almost 15 per cent obese. The report used Statistics Canada figures from 2003.

Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia claimed the highest proportions of obese people (21.5 per cent and 21 per cent), while British Columbia and Quebec were at the low end of the scale (12.1 per cent and 12.6 per cent).

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