Body composition of adults, 2012 to 2013

Body composition is an important indicator of the health of individuals and populations. Excess body weight is associated with an increased risk of numerous health problems including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, many types of cancer (including breast, colorectal and pancreatic), cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke),Note 1,Note 2 and reduced mental well-being.Note 3 Excess abdominal fat (fat around the waist and upper body) has a greater association with health risks than fat located in the hip and thigh areas.Note 1 Being underweight is also associated with health problems, including osteoporosis, under-nutrition, infertility and an increased risk of mortality.Note 1,Note 4

Body mass index

Based on the results of directly measured body mass index (BMI) from the 2012 to 2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), almost 2 out of every 3 (62%) Canadian adults aged 18 to 79 were overweight or obese while 2% were underweight and 36% had a normal BMI (Chart 1).

Chart 1 Distribution of adults aged 18 to 79, by body mass index (BMI)1 and sex, household population, Canada, 2012 to 2013

Description for chart 1

The prevalence of overweight and obese Canadians was greater in the older age groups. Males and females 18 to 39 years of age were more likely to have a normal weight than their older counterparts (aged 40 and older) (Chart 2).

Chart 2 Distribution of adults aged 18 to 79, by body mass index (BMI),1 sex and age group, household population, Canada, 2012 to 2013

Description for chart 2

The prevalence of obesity in the Canadian population has changed since the 1978/1979 Canada Health Survey.Note 5 The prevalence of overweight Canadians did not change, but the proportion considered to be obese doubled (from 13% to 26%). This trend was the same for both males and females, with the proportion of those considered to be obese going from 11% to 27% for males and from 14% to 26% for females. There were no differences between the 2012 to 2013 CHMS and the 2008 Canadian Community Health Survey, in which BMI was also measured.Note 6

Abdominal obesity

The average waist circumference (WC) of Canadian males aged 18 to 79 was 97.5 cm whereas the result for females was 90.5 cm. The average waist circumference was higher among overweight (95.0 cm) and obese (112.0 cm) Canadians compared to those who were underweight (70.0 cm) or normal weight (81.0 cm).

The proportion of adults considered to have an increased health risk was lower when waist circumference and BMI were considered together (see About body composition). Approximately 41% of the Canadian population aged 18 to 79 (34% of males and 48% of females) were determined to have a body composition associated with increased health risk (Chart 3). Older adults aged 40 to 79 were more likely to have a body composition associated with an increased health risk compared to younger adults aged 18 to 39 years. Younger females aged 18 to 39 were more likely than younger males aged 18 to 39 to have a body composition associated with an increased health risk (38% for females vs. 13% for males). There were no differences between males and females for older adults aged 40 to 79.

Chart 3 Distribution of household population aged 18 to 79 with a body composition associated with a greater risk of developing health problems,1 by sex and age group, Canada, 2012 to 2013

Description for chart 3

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About body composition

Body mass index (BMI) is defined as the ratio of person’s weight in kilograms by their height squared in meters (kg/m2). BMI represents an estimate of fatty tissue based on weight related to height.Note 1 It is important to note that the BMI does not directly measure body fat and can lead to some misclassification of health risk. For example, a person with greater fat-free mass (e.g. muscle or bone)Note 1 might be categorized as overweight based on their BMI, but the actual health risk for that person would be lower than someone with the same BMI who has more fat mass. Waist circumference is therefore used as an indicator of abdominal fat mass to further refine health risk classification in adults. Excess fat around the waist and upper body is associated with greater health risks than fat located in the hip and thigh areas.Note 1

The CHMS measured waist circumference based on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) protocol.

The BMI and BMI-waist circumference cut-offs are as follows:Note 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of The BMI and BMI-waist circumference cut-offs are as follows:. The information is grouped by Body mass index (kg/m) (appearing as row headers), Classification, Body mass index risk, Waist circumference (cm) and Body mass index - waist circumference risk (appearing as column headers).
Body mass index (kg/m2) Classification Body mass index risk Waist circumference (cm) Body mass index - waist circumference risk
Males Females
< 18.5 Underweight Increased Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
18.5 to 24.9 Normal Least ≥ 90 ≥ 80 High
25.0 to 29.9 Overweight Increased ≥ 100 ≥ 90 Very high
30.0 to 34.9 Obese I High ≥ 110 ≥ 105 Extremely high
35.0 to 39.9 Obese II Very high ≥ 125 ≥ 115 Extremely high
40.0 and over Obese III Extremely high ≥ 125 ≥ 125 Extremely high

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Notes

References

Ardern, C.I., Janssen, I., Ross, R., and P.T. Katzmarzyk. 2004. “Development of health-related waist circumference thresholds within BMI categories.” Obesity Research. Vol. 12, no. 7, 1094 to 1103.

Health Canada. 2003. Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults. Ottawa.

Luppino, F.S., de Wit, L.M., Bouvy, P.F., Stijnen, T., Cuijpers, P., Pennix, B.W.J.H., and F. G. Zitman. 2012. “Overweight, obesity, and depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies.” Archives of General Psychology. Vol. 67, no. 3, 220 to 229.

Orpana, H., Berthelot, J.M., Kaplan, M.S., Feeny, D.H., McFarland, B., and N.A. Ross. 2010. “BMI and mortality: results from a national longitudinal study of Canadian adults.” Obesity. Vol. 18, no. 1, 214 to 218.

Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Institute for Health Information. 2011. Obesity in Canada. Ottawa.

Statistics Canada. 1979. Canada Health Survey (CHS). http://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p2SV.pl?Function=getSurvey&SDDS=3217 (accessed: September 15, 2014).

Statistics Canada. 2009. Table 105-0507 - Measured adult body mass index (BMI), by age group and sex, household population aged 18 and over excluding pregnant females, Canada (excluding territories).” CANSIM (database) (accessed: September 15, 2014).

Data

Additional data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey are available from CANSIM tables 117-0001 to 117-0011.

For more information on the Canadian Health Measures Survey, please contact Statistics Canada's Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; infostats@statcan.gc.ca).

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