- Canadians surveyed in six cities still have much to learn about the
health risks associated with abdominal obesity -
HAMILTON, ON, June 12 /CNW/ - New report cards released today by the
Canadian Obesity Network reveal that residents in six major Canadian cities
barely make the grade when it comes to making the link between abdominal
obesity - excess fat around the midsection - and the increased risk for heart
disease and diabetes. In all cities polled, there was no statistical
difference in the level of awareness - in fact, fewer than one-third of
respondents in each city had knowledge of the health risks associated with
abdominal obesity. The report cards were based on surveys conducted in
Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton and Montréal. In each city,
approximately 800 residents were polled to assess their awareness, attitudes
and behaviours in relation to weight issues and abdominal obesity.
Although the report cards note that residents generally recognize obesity
as a health risk, close to half of those polled are still unaware that the
location of fat on the body makes a difference. Nearly 50 per cent in each
city stated that fat around the hips/buttocks and fat around the midsection
pose an equal health risk for developing heart disease or diabetes. On the
flip side, the remainder of respondents correctly stated that abdominal fat
poses a greater risk to health than fat around the hips and buttocks. Research
has shown it is abdominal fat, most easily assessed by measuring waist
circumference, that can significantly increase an individual's risk of chronic
disease, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
When respondents in each of the six cities were asked to identify
"at-risk" waist sizes for men and women, they received a failing grade. Fewer
than 25 per cent in each of the cities correctly cited 102 cm (40 inches) as
the waist size above which a man would be at greater risk of developing
cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They fared even worse when citing the
at-risk waist size for women, with fewer than 10 per cent correctly
identifying 88 cm (35 inches) as the cut-off point. While these cut-offs have
been used in recent years by physicians and researchers to measure their
patients' risk, the recently-published Canadian guidelines on obesity proposed
even lower cut-off points, based on the recommendations of the International
Diabetes Federation (IDF). The IDF cut-offs, which take ethnicity into
account, generally recommend 94 cm (37 inches) for men and 80 cm (32 inches)
"The confusion around these numbers tells us that a lot of education
still needs to be done," says Dr. Arya Sharma, Scientific Director, Canadian
Obesity Network, and Canada Research Chair for Cardiovascular Obesity Research
and Management, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. "What is also
disconcerting about the report cards is that most residents in these major
cities are underestimating their personal risk of developing heart disease and
While respondents in the cities polled tend to recognize the health risks
generally associated with being overweight, few acknowledge that the risks
apply to them personally. When asked about the level of risk that overweight
people have for developing heart disease, the majority of overweight
respondents in all the six cities felt that overweight individuals were
"extremely" or "very much" at-risk. When looking at their own risk, however,
fewer than 25 per cent in each city felt that they themselves were "extremely"
or "very much" at risk of developing heart disease. Similar trends were
noticed when asked about risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high
"This sense of denial on their part may indicate that they are viewing
weight gain and obesity as a personal failing," says Dr. Rafik Habib,
Director, Centre Cardiovasculaire de Laval, Laval, Québec. "Now that research
has shown us that obesity is caused by a large number of environmental,
societal and biological variables, we need to educate Canadians so that they
can begin to recognize and acknowledge their own personal risk."
The survey divided respondents from the six cities into three
medically-recognized weight categories - normal/underweight, overweight and
obese - to determine how individuals in these different weight categories
perceived and assessed risks related to being overweight or obese(i).
According to Dr. Habib, there is some encouraging news coming out of the
survey. Residents, he says, deserve high marks for recognizing that losing
inches from their waist can contribute to improved health, and that it is not
just a cosmetic issue. Consistently, more than seven in 10 overweight/obese
individuals polled in all six cities acknowledged that if given a choice to
lose inches from anywhere on their body, they would choose their waist. When
asked why, health reasons (e.g., "to be healthier" and "to reduce the risk of
getting a serious medical condition") were cited most often.
Although the majority of overweight individuals in each of the cities
believe that a doctor can help them lose weight if they really want to, the
minority of overweight respondents actively sought counsel from a physician in
the past year. The survey also revealed than when the subject was brought up
in the physician's office, the physician was less likely than the patient to
initiate the discussion. Furthermore, fewer than 25 per cent of overweight
respondents in each city stated that a physician had measured their waist in
the past year.
"We hope that this situation will change now that more physicians are
recognizing the dangers of being abdominally obese," says Dr. Sharma.
"Evidence is mounting that abdominal obesity is closely associated with a
cluster of other risk factors that have the potential to lead to serious
long-term health consequences. Family physicians can play an important role in
screening their at-risk patients and initiating a discussion about the
importance of losing abdominal fat."
Dr. Sharma notes that in addition to paying attention to traditional risk
factors such as blood pressure, LDL (the bad) cholesterol and blood sugar,
doctors need to take into consideration emerging risk factors that tend to
cluster together such as abdominal obesity, high triglycerides (a form of fat
in the blood) and low levels of HDL (the good) cholesterol.
"We need to look at the complete picture," he says, "and that picture is
larger than it used to be."
About abdominal obesity in Canada
Another recent study revealed that nearly 50 per cent of Canadians have
abdominal or central obesity(ii). Every increase in waist circumference of
14 cm for men and 14.9 cm for women raises a person's likelihood of developing
cardiovascular disease by up to 40 per cent(iii). According to the Canadian
Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management and Prevention of Obesity in
Adults and Children, published in April 2007 in the Canadian Medical
Association Journal, a healthy waist size is generally considered to be 80 cm
for women, and 94 cm for men.
About the survey
The results of the "Is Your City AO-K?" report cards are based on an
Ipsos-Reid survey conducted from March 23 to April 9 2007 among 4,990 men and
women in six Canadian cities: Vancouver (830), Edmonton (797), Calgary (863),
Ottawa (862), Hamilton (804) and Montréal (834). The survey, commissioned by
sanofi-aventis Canada Inc., in partnership with the Canadian Obesity Network,
examined the knowledge and behaviours of Canadians relating to the health
risks associated with being overweight. Specifically, the survey examined
people's perceptions about excess body fat and abdominal obesity, as well as
the motivations and barriers associated with losing weight.
For the survey, a randomly representative sample of individuals within
each city was interviewed from the Ipsos Reid on-line consumer panel. With a
sample of this size, results for each city are considered accurate to within
+/-3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20 of what they would have been had
the entire adult population within each city been polled. The margin of error
would be larger for specific sub-groups within the survey population. These
data are weighted to ensure that the sample's age/sex composition reflects
that of the actual adult population in each city according to Census data.
About the Canadian Obesity Network
The Canadian Obesity Network (CON) links obesity researchers with the
private sector, practitioners, and policy-makers to foster innovations and
investments toward cost-effective solutions to prevent, control and treat
CON is funded by the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence Program
(www.nce.gc.ca), a joint initiative of the Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Industry Canada. For more
information please visit www.obesitynetwork.ca.
Notes to Editors: Results obtained in the six individual cities polled
were released on the Canada newswire today. The following physicians are
available for interviews in those centres: Dr. Ali Zentner (Vancouver),
Dr. Rick Ward (Calgary), Dr. Bob Dent (Ottawa), Dr. Rafik Habib (Montréal) and
Drs. Arya Sharma and Richard Tytus (Hamilton).
B-roll will be available at the following times/coordinates:
Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Time: 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Coordinates: Anik F2 C
Audio subcarrier 6.2 and 6.8
Downlink frequency 3820 vertical
(i) For the survey, respondents were asked to provide their height and
weight, from which their body mass index (BMI) was calculated to
determine which weight category they belonged to: underweight (BMI
less than 18.5), normal weight (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9),
overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9) and obese (BMI greater than
(ii) Haffner S, on behalf of the IDEA Executive Committee. Waist
Circumference and Body Mass Index are both independently
associated with cardiovascular disease. The International Day for
the Evaluation of Abdominal Obesity (IDEA) Survey. Abstract
presentation at the 55th Annual Scientific Session of the American
College of Cardiology, 2006.
For further information:
For further information: Rosalind O'Connell, Manning Selvage & Lee,
(416) 847-1321; Gabrielle Collu, Manning Selvage & Lee, (514) 844-7338