If kids in the United States and Canada faced off against each other in an international episode of ‘The Biggest Loser,’ it would not look good for the U.S.
Rates of obesity among children and teenagers in the U.S. have increased substantially more than in Canada since the late 1970s, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although the growing obesity epidemic in the U.S. is well known, this report shines a light on how we compare to our neighbors up north, said Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and lead author of the study.
The report found that, whereas the obesity rate among 3- and 19-year-olds was about 5 percent in both the U.S. and Canada in the late 1970s, it rose to 17.5 percent in the U.S. by 2012 and only 13 percent in Canada by 2013.
However, in both countries, the rates have leveled off in the last 10 years.
In recent years, the difference was most stark among 7- and 12-year old girls, of whom 19 percent were obese in the U.S. in 2012 compared to 9 percent in Canada in 2013.
There did not seem to be a difference among children ages 3 to 6 or teenagers ages 13 to 19 between the two countries. However, the study authors pointed out that a lack of sufficient data may account for that part of the result.
The study also did not look into what could be accounting for the large spread in obesity prevalence.
“Now, I am hoping we will have a chance to make comparisons between dietary and physical factors between the two countries,” Ogden said.
An earlier study by Ogden and her colleagues found that the rate of obesity among adults was also higher in the U.S. at 34 percent than in Canada at 24 percent in 2008.