A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that children in America are growing larger in weight than children in Canada.
The report, “Prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents in Canada and the United States,” stated that while 13% of children between the ages of 3 and 19 in Canada were found to be obese, that number increased to 17.5% when looking at children in the same age bracket in the United States.
Researchers added that both of those statistics were significantly higher than they were in the late 1970s when only 5% of children in Canada and 5.6% of children in the US were obese.
While both countries saw an increase in obesity rates in the 1980s and 1990s, the United States saw a greater increase in obesity rates with 16.6% of children considered obese by 2004 compared to 12.4% in Canada. The reasons behind this are still unknown.
“There are a number of factors that could be contributing to this difference, but no one’s really done a study to uncover what those factors are,” said Peter Katzmarzyk, a professor of pediatric obesity and diabetes at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. “It gives us an opportunity to explore why these differences are and maybe lead us to some interventions.”
Observed obesity rates tend to show a shift taking place once children enter school. While children between the ages of 3 and 6 in both countries have similar rates of obesity, children between the ages of 7 and 12 differ drastically, with 19.2% in the US labeled as obese and only 11.8% in Canada, reports Carina Storrs for CNN.
“I think this report is going to give us a wake-up call about what we’re doing different in that age group that’s different from our cousin, Canada,” said Kristi King, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
According to the study, children who are obese are more likely to continue on to become obese adults, and are more susceptible to health issues such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as social problems such as stress, and elevated blood pressure and higher cholesterol levels. Researchers suggest monitoring these trends in order to encourage the beginning of a reduction.
“Even if we’re flat-lining, it’s at the highest level ever,” said Mark Tremblay, director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research program at the Children’s Hospital in Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. “The cost is enormous in terms of physical, emotional, mental, social impact, which suggests to me more needs to be done,” Tremblay added. He was not involved in the research.
Researchers noted that although both countries seem similar, small differences could account for the increased obesity rates in the US. For example, families in the US tend to eat out more often than families in Canada do. In addition, portion sizes in Canada tend to be smaller than those found in the US.