A study conducted in Newfoundland and Labrador has confirmed that a higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with increased risk for chronic diseases, and is also associated with an increased number of visits to family physicians.
Laurie Twells, PhD, an assistant professor with the School of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland, led the study which was published in online journal Population Health Management in 2010.
Dr. Twells and her colleagues found obese and morbidly obese individuals were more likely than their non-obese peers to report being diagnosed with several chronic conditions.
In addition, morbidly obese individuals had double the number of visits in the previous year to a general practitioner, compared to normal-weight individuals.
Yet despite this, the majority of the provinces obese and morbidly obese individuals self-rated themselves as in good, very good or excellent health, pointing to a lack of awareness regarding the health risks associated with obesity.
Dr. Twells analyzed data from 2,345 people living in Newfoundland and Labrador who had responded to the Canadian Community Health Survey in 2001.
Her findings showed that obese and morbidly obese individuals:
are four times and six times more likely to have cerebrovascular (including high blood pressure, heart, stroke) diseases compared to normal weight individuals
are two times and five times more likely to report having diabetes
high blood pressure alone is five times and eight times more likely to be reported
Dr. Twells observed that the results, particularly those relating to the increased co-morbidity burden among overweight and obese individuals, can likely be generalized to other Caucasian adult populations across Canada.
Her concern is related to the health system. She is not confident that the healthcare system and practitioners in Newfoundland and Labrador, and other provinces, can cope with the current demand and potential future demand from the increased numbers of obese individuals.
Research suggests that obesity tracks through ones life cycle and we are also witnessing a dramatic increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity in Newfoundland and Labrador and across Canada. This does not bode well for the future health of our population and its impact on the health system.