Same impact as smoking?

The height of the holiday BBQ season may not be the best time to discuss it, but obesity has developed into a serious health problem. Too many people in wealthy countries are overweight, says the World Health Organization, and we are now facing an “obesity epidemic.” According to a study published in the American Heart Association’s medical journal, more than half of all American adults are overweight. Researchers believe that if the weight gain continues, every U.S. adult will be overweight within a few generations.

Although anyone who has traveled to the U.S. would agree that obesity appears to be a more severe problem south of the border (those huge portions in restaurants may explain part of it) Canadians have no reason to be smug. Obesity can and does cause severe and costly medical problems for many otherwise healthy people.

According to the World Health Organization, an escalating epidemic of overweight and obesity is affecting many countries in the world and if action is not taken now to stem the pandemic, millions of people will develop non communicable diseases and other health disorders.

Obesity is now well recognized as a disease in its own right, one which largely preventable through changes in lifestyle, especially diet. Obesity is a major determinant of many non communicable diseases (NCDs) and induces diabetes mellitus (type 2: non-insulin-dependent), coronary heart disease and stroke. It increases the risk of several types of cancer, gallbladder disease, musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory problems.

In a joint statement at a health conference in Geneva, experts from 25 countries said that, “obesity’s impact is so diverse and extreme that it should now be regarded as one of the greatest neglected public health problems of our time, with an impact on health which may well prove to be as great as that of smoking.”