Monday, February 1, 2010

Killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle_Part Two

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief of The London Free Press, wrote in the pointofview (sic) column: "Many of us smoke too much, eat too much, eat too many of the wrong things, and not nearly enough of us get adequate exercise, whether we're teenagers or aging baby boomers."

He's right, of course. There are folk to be found doing all the above. But in some areas things are looking up. Take smoking. The number of young people smoking regularly or occasionally has dropped over the past decade. (At least by figures going up to 2008.)

As people typically start smoking in their teens, this drop indicates future smoking rates will be lower than today's. At 19.8 percent, you may be interested to know, the smoking rate in Ontario is below the national average.

As good as things look on the smoking front, they look quite the opposite when it comes to the battle of the bulge. And the problem is not confined to Canada. Obesity is a global epidemic affecting about a billion people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization: "Contrary to conventional wisdom, the obesity epidemic is not restricted to industrialized societies . . ."

"Increased consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, combined with reduced physical activity . . . ," these are fueling the global obesity epidemic. (More on this in the next post.)

In Canada 37% of adults are overweight and 24% are obese. Do the math --- 61% of adult Canadians are fat. The situation with children and teens is even more alarming. Among teen boys age 15 to 19, the proportion classified as overweight or obese rose from 14% to 31% between 1981 and 2009. Among teen girls, it increased from 14% to 25%.

I think it is rather simplistic to just damn the lazy Canadians who would "rather buy food prepared (and salty) than make it . . . " In many ways Canadians are trying to eat well. The question is: Why are they so often failing?

Take tea: Per capita consumption of tea has increased to 79.4 litres. Wow! This increase may be partially explained by the widely reported antioxidant properties of some teas. This looks like evidence that Canadians are trying; They do care.

According to Statistics Canada we have more fruit in our diets, more yogurts but less milk, we've increased our chicken while cutting back on our red meat. Oils and fats are on a downward trend, but vegetable consumption is also down and refined sugar use is up.

And where do all these food trends lead? Well, the total daily intake of calories per person has fallen to 2,382 calories, a decline of 131 calories since peaking in 2001. It does appear that if we give Canadian healthy choices, they will take them.

But making healthy choices is not always easy. Tomorrow we'll take a look at how food producers make it difficult to make healthy food choices.

And we'll be taking a look at the key priorities of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. I must tell you that as much as I disliked The London Free Press editorial, the news report on the Heart and Stroke Report Card was excellent, even going so far as to touch on the foundation's recommendations.

Are you a fatty? Try the BMI (body mass index) calculator.

I like the following site as it discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the BMI calculations. Nothing is black and white in my world; This is the BMI site for those who live in Rockinon's world.

BMI calculator background information.Lastly, be aware that some people believe BMI can potentially missclassify people as fat, even though their percentage of body fat is not excessive.

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