Fast food has been dominating the western diet ever since it was popularized in the late ’50s. Canada, much like the United States, has gone through the fast-food craze resulting in a strong culture of eating foods that aren’t necessarily healthy. The question is, how much fast food portions are affecting Canadian obesity rates, and is there a correlation between obesity levels and the efficiency of the Canadian healthcare system?
Affinity for fast food on the rise
It is a fairly common misconception that Canadians are impervious to the fast-food craze. Studies done in 2015 by Canadian researchers have shown that one 1 in every 16 calories consumed by Canadians was derived from fast food sources.
That being said, obesity and overweight levels in Canada have remained relatively stable in the period from 2015 to 2019, showing that 27.7% of Canadians were obese in 2019 while 35.8% were overweight. Many argue that these numbers could change soon given the increasing popularity of fast food and the growing trend of sedentary behavior in Canada.
It is a common misconception that Canadian fast-food portions are smaller than ones found in the US. Canadian portions from popular fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s or Hungry Jack’s are the same size as those in the US, but richer in caloric value. An average Canadian fast-food meal is packing more calories than an average Australian fast-food meal. The Compare the Market Health team looked into food portioning around the world as well as creating the above image. They found Canadian KFC Original Recipe Burger is 35 grams larger than its Australian counterpart, and packs in 122 more calories
Interestingly enough, Australian obesity rates are extremely close to those of Canada, despite the fact that Australian fast-food portions are on average smaller than both Canadian and American ones.
Although fast-food portion sizes definitely play a role in Canadian obesity rates, there are other factors to consider as well. For one, an average Canadian is exercising significantly less than the recommended. This applies to both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. The lack of physical activity is also adding to the ongoing cardiovascular health crisis among Canadians of all ages.
Obesity levels divert attention from another concerning metric that is slowly becoming a hot topic in fitness circles. As it turns out, Canadians are “overfat.” In other words, there is a significant percentage of adults whose BMI doesn’t place them in the overweight or obese category, but whose levels of excess body fat put them at risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Being “overfat” isn’t exclusively a Canadian problem, it’s a problem that’s plaguing the entire western world.
Obesity Canada, a leading charity organization tasked with tracking obesity rates across Canadian territories has concluded that soon nearly 30% of adults in this country will be obese and in need of medical attention to manage their condition. Such figures are alarming for a country that is utilizing a socialized form of healthcare. The cost of obesity is expected to reach $8.8 billion this year. This means that the cost per individual on the healthcare system is $1,453 for those that are overweight. The greater effect is more pressure placed on the socialized system.
Long term, the issue of obesity could have tangible consequences on Canadian public healthcare programs. Especially considering the number of resources and manpower necessary to treat medical issues caused by chronic obesity such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.
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