Leslie Ciarula Taylor
February 4, 2011
A Pacific island is packed with the fattest people in the world, and while Western countries keep piling on pounds, there are pockets of healthiness breaking out, a comprehensive 28-year survey of 199 countries reveals.
Creeping westernization has turned the tiny nation of Nauru into an island pocket of fat, where the body mass index hangs between 34 and 35.
In Canada, the average BMI for women in 2008 was 26.7 and for men, 27.5 – a big increase of two points in 28 years but still below heavyweights such as the U.S., the U.K. and Chile.
The forecast for heart disease as a global problem was “dismal and comprises a population emergency that will cost tens of millions of preventable deaths” unless countries act, researchers Sonia Anand and Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Hamilton, said in a commentary with the study.
Women in Belgium, France, Finland, Italy and Switzerland managed to stay the same size over the 1980 to 2008 span of the study.
Western countries, including Canada, South Korea and the U.S., had some of the lowest blood-pressure rates, thanks to medication rather than sodium reduction.
Ottawa disbanded its sodium-reduction task force, created in 2007 to develop a strategy to reduce Canadians’ high intakes, it was reported Friday.
Three global surveys, of cholesterol, obesity and blood pressure, were published online this week in The Lancet .
Though cholesterol has fallen in high-income regions of North America, Europe and Australasia, the numbers remain the highest in the world and far higher than in east and Southeast Asia.
More worrying, however, was evidence that cholesterol and blood pressure are rising in east and Southeast Asia, the study said.
Countries such as Japan, Seychelles and Singapore had cholesterol levels approaching western European numbers and higher than levels in Canada.
Cholesterol levels were highest in countries such as Iceland and Germany and lowest in Africa.
Reducing salt and trans fat in prepared foods could help combat blood pressure and cholesterol rates, the study said.
The study found that men had higher blood pressure than women in every region except West Africa, with the highest numbers in central and Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
Worldwide, the obesity rate doubled in 28 years, the study said. Five per cent of men and eight per cent of women were obese in 1980; the rates were nearly 10 per cent for men and 14 per cent for women in 2008.