A new Statistics Canada report released on September 20, 2012 finds that almost a third (31.5%) of 5- to 17-year olds were overweight (19.8%) or obese (11.7%) in 2009 to 2011. While the percentage who were overweight was similar across age groups, the prevalence of obesity was almost double in boys overall than girls (15% versus 8%). In children aged 5 to 11 years, boys are more than three times likely to be obese (19.5%) compared to girls of the same ages (6.3 %). Experts say that the new obesity cutoffs of the World Health Organization standards used to measure obesity were not enough to explain these findings.
THE STUDY POPULATION
The study (Obesity in Children and Adolescents: Results from the 2009 to 2011 Canadian Health Measures Study) was based on actual measured heights and weights of 2,123 children and adolescents in Canada aged 5 to 17, between the years 2009 and 2011.
BMI – MEASURE OF OBESITY
The data involved only one measure of overweight, BMI (Body Mass Index) which is the defined as a person’s body mass divided by the square of their height. Another recent Canadian study referred to in this report demonstrated that over time, waist circumference among Canadians of all ages has increased more than BMI, indicating the need to monitor waist circumference.
BODY FAT & WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE – SIGNIFICANCE
Evidence for adults indicates that changes in the distribution of body fat such as increased waist circumference, are associated with elevated health risk. Weight carried around the abdomen (in so-called “apple” shaped people) is a greater risk than weight distributed overall or in the hips and thighs (as in so-called “pear-shaped” people). Even when the prevalence of BMI doesn’t change, distribution of body fat centered around the waist is associated with increased health risk.
CHILDREN WITH ADULT-ONSET ILLNESSES
Excess weight in childhood is increasingly being linked to what were once thought to be adult-onset illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), abnormal blood fats / high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Studies have shown that adolescents who are overweight have a 14 times increased risk of having a heart attack before they turn 50. Children that are obese also have higher levels of depression and low self-esteem and are more likely to be teased or bullied at school.
EFFECT OF “SCREEN TIME”
The amount of time spent in front of a TV, computer, video game or texting or surfing on smart-phones (so-called “screen-time”) has been found to be strongly correlated with childhood obesity. Children and adolescents that spend two hours or more of screen time per day are twice as likely to be overweight or obese than those who spend an hour or less of screen time. Studies have also shown that screen time is higher amongst boys than girls, which may be related to higher rates of overweight and obesity found in boys compared with girls.
WHAT DOES THIS STUDY MEAN TO ME?
It would be helpful to encourage children of all ages to participate in regular daily physical activity and decrease their “screen time” to less than 1 hour a day (half the current amount associated with childhood overweight and obesity).
As well, to make sure that children (as well as adults) are within a healthy body weight, its recommended that they have their waist circumference monitored regularly as well as having their Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated and body fat percentage determined.
Our Dietitian is very experienced working with children and can assess your child”s current weight and nutritional status and make recommendations to reduce their risk of acquiring diseases including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), abnormal blood fats / high cholesterol and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
If you are concerned about weight management in you or your children, please click on the “Contact Us” tab to find out how to contact us.