A new study has found that US kids and teens are more likely to be obese, compared to Canadian kids and teens.
The research team from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that roughly 17.5 percent (17.5%) of American kids and teens between the ages of 3 and 19 have problems with their weight, whereas only 13 percent (13%) of Canadian kids and teens in the same age group have problems with their weight.
Peter Katzmarzyk, professor of diabetes and pediatric obesity from the Louisiana State University Pennington Biomedical Research Center (Baton Rouge), gave a statement saying that the findings may provide field experts with new insight on obesity and how to treat it, since the United States and Canada share the same language and a lot of the same culture.
Professor Katzmarzyk informed that “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. It gives us an opportunity to explore why these differences are and maybe lead us to some interventions”.
It’s especially important to find a way to help obese kids and teens as they are likely to grow up into obese adults. This puts them at higher risk of also developing health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure, as well as social problems such as experiencing trouble finding a partner, a job, or being bullied.
For the new study, the US CDC researchers teamed up with Canadian statisticians and epidemiologists, and set out to compare childhood obesity in these two similar countries.
What they found was that the United States and Canada had very similar childhood obesity rates back in the 1970s – roughly 5 percent (5%). And both of them experienced a similar increase in childhood obesity in the 1980s and the 1990s.
But US kids and teens started to slowly experience a greater increase, and by the time we entered 2004, the obesity rate for US kids and teens got to be somewhere around 16.6 percent (16.6%), whereas the obesity rate for Canadian kids and teens was only 12.4 percent (12.4%).
Kristi King, clinical instructor of pediatrics from the Baylor College of Medicine (Houston), gave a statement of her own explaining that kids in these two countries seem to diverge when they reach school age.
The research team noticed that younger kids, ages 3 to 6, still have very similar obesity rates in the two countries. However there’s a noticeable difference in kids between the ages of 7 and 12 – US kids have an obesity rate of 19.2 percent (19.2%), whereas Canadian kids only have an obesity rate of 11.8 percent (11.8%).
King hopes that the study will help field experts better understand what the US is doing to cause such a dramatic change in this age group.
Dr. Bruce Lee, Global Obesity Prevention Center director from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Baltimore), also gave a statement saying that he believes that the factors may be environmental.
While the two countries in the study are similar, there are still some differences between them, and Dr. Lee points out that people live, work and play within specific systems, and that their environments affect what they eat and how much they exercise or move around.
The findings were published in the CDC’s NCHS Data Brief, the August issue.