From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
The Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting heavier than usual snowfalls for the Great Lakes region this coming winter.
That’s good news, in a perverse way. More snow means more shovelling and more shovelling means more calories burned.
Canadians definitely need to burn more calories. The World Obesity Federation says that almost one-third of Canadians are obese. It ranks Canada as the world’s 20th most obese country.
Obesity has increased significantly throughout the world, almost tripling since 1975. In Canada, obesity rose from 22.2 per cent of the population in 2005 to 27.2 per cent in 2018. Now it is 30.47 per cent of Canadians.
Even more startling, the federation predicts that 51 per cent of the world – roughly four billion people – will be overweight or obese within the next 12 years.
Too many people assume that obesity is the result of people eating too much and exercising too little. Scientific studies show however that genetics play a part in obesity. People born with certain genes are more likely to become obese than others.
Other research has shown that healthy weight can be maintained no matter what a person’s genetic background. Roughly 20 to 30 per cent of a person’s weight is determined by environmental factors, so closely watching what we eat and drink and getting enough exercise is important.
Many health experts consider obesity an epidemic that is expected to overtake smoking as the main cause of preventable deaths in Canada. Obesity now is a leading cause of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and other health problems.
Obesity Canada, a charity working to reduce obesity, estimates that one in 10 premature deaths among Canadian adults ages 20 to 64 are directly attributable to obesity.
The fundamental cause of obesity is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. We eat too many foods high in fats and sugars and spend not enough time exercising.
Surveys show that 22 per cent of our diets, and 25 per cent of teenager diets, consist of fast foods, condiments and sugary beverages.
We don’t eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. The federal government says we need to eat more of those, more protein and whole grain foods and make water the drink of choice.
Also, many jobs these days require less physical activity and most people get to work by car or public transport.
Even at home we are consuming less energy. We spend more time watching television and more equipment like vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers, which used to be physically pushed, now are remote controlled.
Almost 53 per cent of Canadians believe they are physically active when in fact research shows that only 15 per cent meet national guidelines for activity.
Obesity in young people is a serious problem. Only seven per cent of them are believed to be getting even moderate levels of physical activity. And, of course, young people are fast food consumers who spend much time watching a screen of some sort.
The costs of obesity are huge. The World Obesity Federation says the economic impact of overweight and obesity on the world is set to reach $4.32 trillion annually by 2035. That equals three per cent of global gross domestic product, comparable with the impact of COVID-19 in 2020.
The direct cost of obesity in Canada has been estimated at between $5 and $7 billion a year. That includes physician, medication and hospitalization costs. But these are older figures and the current direct costs are likely in the double-digit billions.
Whatever the exact cost, it is huge and direct strain on the Canadian economy. It’s an issue that has caught the attention of some of us individually. We talk a lot about the need to lose weight, eat less and exercise more.
But it is not an important issue with the general Canadian public.
Oddly enough we lament news clips and advertisements about underweight adults and children around world the suffering from not enough to eat.
The world’s poorly fed, underweight children have been a serious concern for decades. They remain a problem, however, experts say that obesity now is a larger cause of preventable deaths than underweight.