Obesity and Body Mass Index

Stats, Stats and more Stats

According to Statistics Canada, two out of every three adults are either overweight or obese. Poor eating habits and physical inactivity are critical concerns to public health. In the U.S., two-thirds of the population is obese.  A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on obesity data from 2007 to 2009, found an estimated 34 percent of Americans are obese compared to 24 percent of Canadians. Interestingly Pacific Island Nations, including Samoa, have the worst obesity problem in the world. Since the average Samoan male is considered to be obese, Samoa Air now asks passengers to declare their personal weight during booking. They are the world’s first carrier to charge passengers by their weight rather than per seat. This may be the progressing concept of the future.

Unfortunately, adults are not the only ones plagued by this epidemic. Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese in the U.S and 8.6% of children and youth aged 6-17 are obese in Canada. Obesity rates in children and youth have tripled over the last 25 years in Canada. Teenagers who are obese have an 80% chance of remaining overweight or obese as adults. Weight problems in childhood are likely to persist into adult years. The prevalence of this disease and the associated health consequences are alarming.

Overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate the “body mass index” (BMI). This number correlates with the amount of body fat a person may have. An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight while an adult with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. As weight increases, the risks for developing multiple disease conditions also increase. These can include coronary heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, liver and gallbladder disease, infertility and some cancers including endometrial, breast and colon. Excessive weight can also impact emotional and social health; low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.

Waist Circumference (WC) is another indicator associated with health risk. Excess fat deposited around the waist and upper body has been linked with a greater risk of disease compared to fat around the hip and thigh areas. For example, a WC of 102 cm or more in men and 88 cm or more for women have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Your risk of developing health problems increases as BMI and WC measurements increase.

Several factors have contributed to the increase in the number of overweight and obese individuals within the population. Changes in work, society and leisure to name a few, have affected eating patterns and physical activity. The greater availability of high-caloric dense food, sugar drinks, larger portion sizes and inexpensive prices have each played a role. The increased use of automated transport, less physically demanding work and the development of more passive leisure activities have had effects on weight statistics. Fewer children and youth are walking to and from school as a result of safety concerns today.

Watching TV or playing video games has been found to have a direct correlation with weight gain. Entertainment increases caloric consumption and influences food choices. One eats more and faster when excited, engaged or stressed by a program. Eating for pleasure and comfort instead of necessity is very much the norm. The current perception of food has inadvertently created challenges for maintaining a healthy weight.

Obesity is one of the leading factors contributing to increased risk of developing serious health problems.

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/problem.html
  2. Health Canada: http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/kids-enfants/obesit/index-eng.php
  3. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/life-vie/obes-eng.php
  4. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html
  5. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/oic-oac/index-eng.php
  6. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/02/us-obesity-rate-much-high_n_830272.html
  7. Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B.K., & Flegal, K. M. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among U.S. children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(5), 483-490.
  8. http://www.newsmax.com/Health-News/airline-overweight-passengers-charges/2013/04/03/id/497665
  9. http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2013/04/heavy-passengers