A recent study shows that 3 in 5 Canadians are overweight or obese, but a far greater number have potentially harmful levels of body fat.
According to Statistics Canada, 61.3% of adult Canadians were overweight or obese in 2015.
The percentage of those who were obese rose to 26.7%, up from 23.1% in 2004. For younger Canadians, the news is better: the percentage of children and youth who were obese dropped to 12% from 13.3%.
Traditionally, body mass index, or BMI, is used to measure if a person has a healthy weight.
However, this index has been questioned because it does not consider lifestyle behaviors like dietary quality, physical activity, which are, in fact, stronger factors of death and disease.
In addition, BMI might misclassify someone who is short and muscular as obese.
Researchers point out that most adults in developed countries are “overfat”.
This means they have levels of excess body fat that put them at increased risk of a host of obesity-related diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Even people with “normal weight” can fall into this category, and the BMI misses about 50% of people with excess body fat.
In the study, researchers found that in the United States and New Zealand, there are “alarmingly high” rates of overfat people, where more than 90% of men, 80% of women and 50% of children had unhealthy levels of body fat.
This high level of unhealthy fat can impair health, and represents a “serious public health crisis” for developed countries.
Researchers suggest measuring a person’s waist instead of their weight to assess health risks. This is because excessive belly fat has been linked to many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer.
This waist-to-height ratio “may be the single best clinical indicator of health risk as it can be used throughout childhood, into adult life, as well as throughout the world.
In addition, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio can be used as acceptable measures of obesity alongside BMI.