Obesity among children, adolescents more prevalent in U.S. than Canada

Compared with Canada, the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States is higher, with the difference more pronounced among girls than boys, according to a report released by the CDC.

Margaret D. Carroll, MSPH, of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues evaluated data from three cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the United States and data from the 1978 to 1979 Canada Health Survey, the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey-Nutrition and cycles 2 and 3 of the Canadian Health Measures Survey for Canada to determine the rates of obesity among children and adolescents.

In the late 1970s, no difference was found in obesity prevalence between Canada and the United States whereas in the early 21st century the rate was about 4% lower in Canada (12.4% in 2004; 13% in 2009-2013) compared with the United States (11.6% in 2001-2004; 17.5% in 2009-2012).

Since 2009, there has been a more than 7% lower obesity prevalence in Canada (11.8%) compared with the United States (19.2%) among children aged 7 to 12 years; no significant differences were found for children aged 3 to 6 years and adolescents aged 13 to 19 years.

Among girls aged 3 to 19 years, obesity prevalence was also significantly lower in Canada (10.4%) compared with the United States (16.7%); no difference in prevalence was found among boys.

In an evaluation of non-Hispanic white boys and girls, the prevalence among boys aged 3 to 19 years was similar between the two countries whereas but lower in Canada among girls (10.2%) compared with the United States (14.2%).

“Both Canada and the United States have seen increases in childhood obesity from 1980 to the beginning of the 21st century, and then no recent changes in prevalence,” the researchers wrote. “This plateau (or in some cases, a decrease) in childhood obesity prevalence has been reported in at least eight other countries. Similar to childhood obesity, the prevalence of obesity among adults increased in Canada and the United States from the late 1980s and early 1990s to the first decade of the 21st century.” – by Amber Cox

The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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