Obesity has become such a public health issue that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has called it a worldwide epidemic.1 More and more children have diseases associated with it.

Prevalence

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the most used indicator for estimating overweight and obesity.2 Since it does not take into account body composition (muscle mass, bone structure, fat distribution), growth and lifestyle, it should not be used alone to assess an individual’s health.

Some researchers and clinicians also use the measurement of waist size, where the accumulation of fat is the most damaging to health (abdominal obesity).3

In Quebec

2017

More than 4 million Quebecers are in excess of weight (adjusted reported data):4,5

  • 1 707 200 adults are obese
  • 2 279 600 are overweight
  • 99 500 adolescents aged 12 to 17 are of excess weight

2015

According to the measured data:

  • 59% of adults are in excess of weight7
    • 36% overweight
    • 23% obesity
  •  30% of young people (5 to 17 years old) are in excess of weight8
    • 20% overweight
    • 10% obesity

Evolution of obesity among adults in Quebec7,9-12

In Canada

2017

More than 17 million Canadians are in excess of weight(adjusted reported data):13,14

  • 7 211 300 are obese
  • 9 647 900 are overweight
  • 506 900 adolescents aged 12 to 17 are of excess weight

2015

According to the measured data:

  • 62% of Canadian adults are of excess weight15
    • 35% overweight
    • 27% obesity
  • 31% of young people aged 5 to 17 are of excess weight16
    • 19% overweight
    • 12% obesity

In 2013, it has been measured that 6.7% of toddlers (0 to 2 years old) are overweight.17

Evolution of obesity among adults in Canada18


Health impacts

Obesity is associated with a set of various problems and chronic diseases:19-21

  • type 2 diabetes;
  • cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, stroke, congestive heart failure and coronary heart diseases);
  • the metabolic syndrome;
  • several types of cancer;
  • respiratory problems (asthma, sleep apnea, obesity-hypoventilation syndrome);22
  • musculoskeletal disorders (chronic low back pain, some types of arthritis (osteoarthritis, gout), etc.);
  • hepatic steatosis (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease);
  • infertility, and obstetric complications;23,24
  • gall bladder disorders;
  • chronic kidney disease;
  • psychiatric disorders, although some psychotropic drugs are likely to cause weight gain.

Childhood obesity increases the risk of obesity later in life and contributes to the early onset of a number of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and hypertension.19 As a result, obesity can increase the risk of health problems for the rest of their lives.20

Economic consequences

Obesity is an expensive epidemic.

In 2011, the Quebec National Institute of Public Health has estimated the economic impact of obesity among adults at nearly 3 billion dollars. These costs include those related to hospitalization, medical consultations, use of medication and disability.25,26

Causes

The WHO believes that such a global and rapid growth of obesity cannot be attributed solely to the responsibility of individuals.27 The environment we live in greatly influences diet and physical exercise habits.2,28-30

The WHO identifies five probable and convincing factors associated with obesity:2,31

  • sedentary lifestyles;
  • overconsumption of high-energy and low-nutrient foods;
  • intense food marketing of energy dense foods and fast-food restaurants;
  • overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages;
  • unfavourable socioeconomic conditions.

Prevention: the only viable solution

The impacts of obesity threaten the sustainability of the health care system and the quality of life of Quebecers. It then becomes strategic and wise to promote supportive environments for healthy lifestyles and consumption, in order to ensure future generations a healthy future.

As a collective problem, it is the government’s responsibility to introduce laws, public policies and regulations, as put forward by the Weigth Coalition.

For an outlook of our actions, visit the Interventions section (available only in French).


References