Research Chair on Obesity Centre de recherche Institut Universitaire de Cardiologie et de Pneumologie du QuébecUniversité Laval
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Prevalence, cost and scope of obesity in Canada

The prevalence of obesity is rising to epidemic proportions at an alarming rate in both developed "Westernised" and less developed countries around the world . The situation in Canada is very similar to that of other developed countries. More than a quarter of the children and half the adults in Canada are affected by overweight

Mortality and morbidity

The younger an individual becomes overweight, the younger he is likely to develop health problems affecting, in the long term, his quality of life and possibly his life expectancy. Obesity is also an independent risk factor related to a higher mortality rate. In the United States, obesity (16.6%) scored second behind tobacco use (18.1%) as a principal modifiable cause of death in 2000. However, due to physical inactivity and bad dietary habits, the tendency is now such that tobacco use could easily be overtaken by obesity in a near future.

Actuarial data confirm that severe obesity is associated with a shorter life expectancy. In numerical terms, this means that death risk is 1% greater for each 0.5kg gain in body weight for 30-42-year olds, and 2% for 50-62-year olds.

The health, economic and psycho-social consequences of the increasing incidence of obesity are substantial. Obesity is associated with numerous health complications which range from non-fatal debilitating conditions such as osteoarthritis, to life threatening chronic diseases such as Coronary Heart Disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. The psychological consequences of obesity can range from lowered self-esteem to clinical depression. Recent estimates suggest that between 2 to 8% of the total sick care costs in Western countries are attributable to obesity.

Despite the high prevalence of obesity and the many advances in our understanding of how it develops, present management strategies have persistently failed to achieve long term success.

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