Prevalence of Obesity among Immigrants Living in Canada

Anup Adhikari

  Open Access OPEN ACCESS  Peer Reviewed PEER-REVIEWED

Prevalence of Obesity among Immigrants Living in Canada

Anup Adhikari

Anthropometrica, Toronto, Canada


Canadian who were living in Toronto for the past fifteen years after migrating from their own countries and maintaining their own traditional food habits, were studied for their adiposity and body composition. Body composition was analyzed by bio-impedance method using bioelectrical body composition analyzer and BMI was calculated by standard method. Average age, height, weight, fat % and BMI for the males were 34.2 yr (± 12.3), 175.8 cm (± 8.2), 85.5 kg (± 17.5), 23.6 % (± 7.4) and 27.6 kg.m2 (± 5.2) respectively whereas those for their female counterparts were 30.9 yr (± 11.3), 163.7 cm (± 6.5), 71.1 kg (± 17.1), 31.8 % (± 8.2) and 26.5 kg.m-2 (± 5.9) respectively. A wide range of Fat % were observed in both male and female Canadians which were 7.3% - 50.0% for male and 8.5 %-52.6% for female. Similar wide ranges were also observed in BMI where males had a range of 14.6 kg.m-2 - 48.5 kg.m-2 and female had 15.2 kg.m-2 and 50.2 kg.m-2. In males, 66.12 % were in overweight category, out of which 38.74% were in pre-obese and 27.38% were in obese group. Similarly, in females, 52.72% were in overweight category, out of which 30.96% were in pre-obese category and 21.75% were in obese category. High adiposity was also observed both in males and females. The reason might be due to their life style and food habit.

Cite this article:

  • Adhikari, Anup. "Prevalence of Obesity among Immigrants Living in Canada." American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 2.1 (2014): 35-39.
  • Adhikari, A. (2014). Prevalence of Obesity among Immigrants Living in Canada. American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2(1), 35-39.
  • Adhikari, Anup. "Prevalence of Obesity among Immigrants Living in Canada." American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 2, no. 1 (2014): 35-39.

Import into BibTeX Import into EndNote Import into RefMan Import into RefWorks

1. Introduction

Obesity is a public health challenge throughout the world. The prevalence of obesity has been increased dramatically in past few decades in both developed and developing countries [1, 2]. According to the World Health Organization [2] more than 1.4 billion adults aged 20 or older were reported overweight in the year 2008. Of these overweight population, over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese. Once considered to be a high-income country problem, overweight and obesity are now on the rise in low-and –middle-income countries also, particularly in urban settings. In Canada, obesty is a public health challenge and growing concern for the past few years [3, 4, 5, 6]. According to the information reveled from the joint report of Public health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information [7], the number of obese adults in Canada had been increased tremendously since 1978 and doubled in the 2008 from 13.8% to 25.4 % for adults over 18 years and more. Different studies also revealed that nearly 23% of Canadian population aged 18 or more were suffering from obesity with an additional 36% overweight in the year 2004 [4, 8, 9].

The aim of the present study was to find out the body fat %, BMI and trend of obesity in the Canadian population those who were settled in Canada for the past 15 years and maintaining their own food habits and culture of eating.

2. Method

2.1. Study Population

Participants were the healthy male and female from Etobicoke (Western part of Toronto), Brampton and Mississauga who came to a local fitness club for enrolling their name for fitness program and first time enrolling themselves in a fitness program. A total of 971 man and women were measured on the very first day prior to their exercise program starts. Out of which, 493 were male and 478 were female. All the subjects were Canadian who immigrated and used to live in Canada for the past fifteen years and migrated mostly from middle Europe, North Africa, Asia and Latin America. Age was calculated in years and was grouped for analysis as 15-20 yr, 21-30 yr, 31-40 yr, 41-50 yr, 51-60 yr, 61-70 yr, 71-80yr. Race, ethnicity and duration of migration period were self reported and those who were in Canada for the past 15 years were chosen for the study. All the participants had participated in the study voluntarily and written concern was taken before the measurements according to club’s enrollment rules and regulations.

2.2. Anthropometrical Measurements

For anthropometrical measurements, International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK) accredited level 4 criterion Anthropometrist was involved in anthropometrical measurements and training was also given to the other associates who were also involved in the anthropometrical measurements. Anthropometrical measurements were measured according to ISAK manual [10] (2011) for Anthropometrical measurements.

2.2.1. Height and Weight

Height and weight were measured according to the ISAK manual [10] for anthropometrical protocol. The perpendicular distance between the transverse plane of the vertex and the interior aspects of the feet was considered to measure the height and measured with the help of an Anthropometric rod. Similarly, body weight was measured in nearest gram using an electronic digital weighing machine.

2.3 Body Fat %

Body fat percent can be measured by various techniques. Bioelectrical impedance method is one of them to estimate body fat % by applying a small alternating current to the body. Different body tissues have different resistivity and depending on the resistivity body fat % can be estimated with this method [11]. In the present study, whole body fat% was analyzed with Bioelectrical Impedance Analyzer (Quantum II, RJL system, USA). Pre-testing protocols and other specific instructions given by the manufacturer company were followed to avoid error while measuring body fat% with the bio-impedance equipment.

2.4. Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI was derived by dividing weight (kg) by height (m) squared. BMI categories were based on age specific cut-offs in adolescent. World Health Organization [1] based classification for global database on Body Mass Index (BMI) was used as a cut points for BMI.

Statistical Analysis: For statistical analysis, the software package SPSS 11.0 was used. Mean value and standard deviation were analyzed and presented in the table.

3. Results

Table 1 showed the anthropometrical characteristics, body composition and BMI of men and women studied in the present study. Average 23.6% body fat was observed for the males whereas that of their female counterpart was 31.8% though the ranges were very similar to each other with a wide range. The 95% confidence interval for average 23.6% fat for male was from 22.9 % to 24.3 % and that was for the female was 31.15 to 32.5% with average 31.8 % subcutaneous fat. When body mass index (BMI) was considered, the male groups possessed an average value of 27.6 kg.m2 with a range between 14.6 to 48.5 kg.m2 whereas that of the females was 26.5 kg.m2 with a range between 15.2 kg.m2 to 50.2 kg.m2 which were very similar to each other. The 95 % confidence interval for average BMI of male was from 27.1 to 28.1 kg.m2 whereas that for female counterparts was from 26.0 to 27.0 kg.m2.

The weight category classification based on BMI was presented in Table 3.

Table 2 presented the age group wise information for both male and female. The groups were arranged into 10 years range and 20 years range except for the first group, as the minimum age considered for the study was 15 years for both male and female. The weight category classification based on BMI was presented in Table 3.

95% Confidence Interval level for Fat % and BMI of all age group were shown in Table 4.

The cut points for the classification were based on Body Mass Index (BMI) classified by World Health Organization, which was presented in Table 5.

4. Discussion

Overweight and obesity could be defined as an excessive adiposity that may impair health [2] (WHO 2012). Excess adiposity is a risk factor associated with mature mortality, type 2 diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases [12, 13, 14, 15, 16]. In the present study, average body fat% for the men was observed to be 23.6 % (± 7.4) ranging from 7.3 to 50.0 % whereas that of females was 31.8% (± 8.2) ranging from 8.5 to 52.6 % (Table 1).

Table 1. Height, weight, fat% and BMI of Canadian male (n=493) and female (n=478)

When analyzed age wise, fat% increased as age increased both in men and women (Table 2). This might be due to impact of aging on resting metabolic rate as well as on macronutrient oxidation rates besides other factors which supported the study of St-Onge et al [17] with similar findings.

For general population, Body Mass Index (BMI) is as indicator of obesity though it is limited to overall body fat assessment as BMI does not provide complete image on the distribution of body fat. The underlying assumption of using BMI to define obesity was that at a given height, higher weight was associated with increased fatness [15]. As BMI is the result of body weight over height, population with more muscle mass with less height would show more BMI than the population with same height but less muscle mass but excess fat. Thus, BMI may be a good indicator of over weight for general population but limited to athletic population. So, BMI would be a good indicator for obesity and obesity related occurrence of fat for non-athletic population. In the present study, the studied population was non-athletic with regular daily routine activities and out of any exercises for long time prior to their involvement in fitness program. Hence, BMI could be used as appropriate scale for the presently studied population for measuring obesity. Majority of the men and women of the present study were in overweight category (Table 3). 33.06 % men were in normal range whereas a nominal section of 0.81 % were in underweight category. The observed value was very similar to the study reported by Statistics Canada [18] for Canadian adults from 2007 to 2009 where 31.0 % was in normal weight category while only 0.8 % was in underweight category. Out of 66.12 % overweight male of the present study, 38.74 % were in pre-obese category while 27.38 % were in obese category. 17.65 % of obese male population of the present study was in obese class I category whereas a less percent of 6.69 were in obese class II category compared to 3.04 % obese class III category. Very similar value was also reported by Statistics Canada [18] for male Canadians where 24.2 % were in obese category comprising of obese class I, II, and III. Likewise when females of the present study were considered, only 45.39 % were in normal weight range category while 1.88 % was in underweight category. A large percentage of women (52.72 %) of the present study were in overweight category out of which 30.96 % were in pre-obese category and 21.75 % were in obese category. Of these 21.75 % obese female, 3.14 % fell in type III category, 6.69 % in type II category and 11.92 % in type I category. According to The Canada Health Measure survey report of 2007 to 2009, 44.7 % of Canadian women were in normal weight category whereas 29.5 % in overweight category and 23.6 % in obese category comprising of type I, II, III. Thus, the observed value for normal weight category was very similar with the 44.7 % in normal weight category for the Canadian women reported by Canada Health Measure survey which also observed higher incidence of over weight and obesity in Canadian females [18].

Table 2. Age group wise average height, weight, fat% and BMI and weight category of Canadian male (n=493) and female (478), * SD = Standard deviation

Age-group wise classification showed that 100 % of men over seventy years were overweight followed by 87.5 % and 83.93 % in the age group of 61-70 and 51-60 yr respectively. The prevalence of overweight in male was further reduced to 78.2 % in 41-50 yr age group followed by 76.52 % in 31 -40 yr group. Surprisingly most of the young male population with age ranged from 15 to 20 years (60 % of total male population studied) were overweight compare to the young girls of same age group (42.2 % of total female population studied) but it was reversed when obesity was considered (Table 2).The reason was not clear but may be due food intake or inactivity. Prevalence of obesity was observed more in the men after 30 year of age than the young population below 30 year and it increased as age went up (Table 3). Similarly, prevalence of obesity was more in women over 30 year than the women below 30 year (Table 2). The observation in the present study was very similar with the findings of Shields et al [19] reported in Statistics Canada [16] where mean BMI rose with age both for males and females.

Table 3. BMI of Canadian male (n=493) and female (n=478)

It was well known fact that overweight and obesity were the result of energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended though the causes and contributors to obesity are a complex phenomenon and depends on various factors like genetic, environment-social and environmental, ethnicity and food habit and some pathological conditions. But in most cases, an increased intake energy rich foods that high in fat and sugars associated with decreased physical activity due to sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing mode of transpiration and increasing urbanization were the some of reasons behind obesity and overweight [2]. The studied population was from different countries migrated to Canada and living in Toronto for the past 15 years but maintaining their own ethnical eating habit and diet. Most of the men and women were with sedentary life style and maintaining there own eating habits, which were basically carbohydrate based ethnical food containing more fats, spices and oils for ethnical way of food preparation which was revealed during the nutritional counselling for the present study.

Table 4. 95% confidence interval for fat % and BMI of male and female at different age groups

Table 5. The International Classification of adult underweight, overweight and obesity according to BMI (Adapted from WHO 1995,WHO 2000,WHO 2004)

5. Conclusion

The prevalence of obesity in the emigrated Canadian population which might be due to less active life style with eating food habits. The study also supported the previous studies indicating prevalence of obesity in Canadian population. It might be concluded that occurrence of overweight increased as age went up which was true for both men and women. The study recommended more active life style for the Canadians with proper balance diet besides other factors.


[1]  World Health Organization (WHO), Global Database on Body Mass Index. Available from, 2004.
In article      
[2]  World Health Organization (WHO), Obesity and overweight, Fact sheet No 311, May 2012. Available from, 2012.
In article      
[3]  Gilmore, J., Body mass index and health. Health Reports (Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003), 11(1): 31-43, 1999.
In article      
[4]  Katzmarzyk, P.T., The Canadian obesity epidemic, 1985-1998, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 166(8): 1039-1040, 2002.
In article      
[5]  Tremblay, M.S., Katzmarzyk, P.T., Willms, J.D., Temporal trends in overweight and obesity in Canada, 1981-1996, International Journal of Obesity, 26: 538-43,2002.
In article      CrossRef
[6]  Tremblay, M.S., Pérez, C.E., Ardern, C.I., Bryan, S.N., Katzmarzyk, P.T., Obesity, overweight and ethnicity, Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003. Health Rep 16(4):23-34. 2005.
In article      
[7]  Public health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Obesity in Canada - A joint report from the Public Health Agency of Canada and The Canadian Institute for Health information. 2011, Available from
In article      
[8]  Shields, M., Tremblay, M.S., Laviolette, M., Craig, C.L., Janssen, I., Gorber, S.C., Fitness of Canadian adults: Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, Statistics Canada, Catalogue no.82-003-X-Health Reports, vol 21, no1, March 2010, available from
In article      
[9]  Tjepkema, M., Nutrition: Findings from the Canadian Community Health Survey – Adult Obesity in Canada: Measured height and weight, Issue no. 1, Component of Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-620-MWE2005001, 2010.
In article      
[10]  ISAK, International Standards for Anthropometric Assessment. ISAK manual, International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK): Lower Hutt, New Zealand, 2011.
In article      
[11]  Jaffrin, M.Y., Body composition determination by bioimpedance: an update, Curr. Opin. Clin. Nutr. Metab. Care, 12(5):482-486, 2009.
In article      CrossRef
[12]  Hubert, H.B., Feinleib,M., McNamara, P.M.,Castelli, W.P., Obesity as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease: a 26 year follow up of participants in the Framingham Heart Study, Circulation, 67(5): 968-977,1983.
In article      CrossRef
[13]  Colditz, G.A., Willett, W.C., Stamfer, M.J., Manson, J.E., Hennekens, C.H., Arky, R.A., Speizer, F.E., Weight as a risk factor for clinical diabetes in women, Am J Epidemiol, 132(3): 501-513,1990.
In article      
[14]  Chan, J.M., Rimm, E.B, Colditz, G.A, Stampfer, M.J., Willett, W.C., Obesity, fat distribution and weight gain as a risk factors for clinical diabetes in men, Diabetes Care, 17(9):961-969,1994.
In article      CrossRef
[15]  Flegal, K.M., Shepherd, J.A., Looker, A.C., Graubard, B.I., Borrud, L.G., Ogden, C.L., Harris, T.B., Everhart, J.E., Schenker, N., Comparisons of percentage body fat, body mass index, waist circumference and waist-stature ratio in adults, Am J Clin Nutrn, 89:500-508,2009.
In article      CrossRef
[16]  Brenner, D.R., Tepylo, K.,Eny, K.M., Cahill, L.E., Sohemy, A.,Comaprison of body mass index and waist circumference as predictors of cardiometabolic health in a population of young Canadian adults, Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome, 2:28-35,2010.
In article      CrossRef
[17]  St-Onge, M.P., Gallagher, D., Body composition changes with aging: The cause or the result of alterations in metabolic rate and macronutrient oxidation?, Nutrition, 26(2):152-155, 2010.
In article      CrossRef
[18]  Statistics Canada, Catalogue no 82-003-X, Health Reports, January 2010, Available from
In article      
[19]  Shields, M., Tremblay, M.S., Laviolette, M., Craig, C.L., Janssen, I., Gorber, S.C., Fitness of Canadian adults: Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, Statistics Canada, Catalogue no.82-003-X-Health Reports, vol 21, no 1, March 2010, available from
In article      
  • CiteULikeCiteULike
  • MendeleyMendeley
  • StumbleUponStumbleUpon
  • Add to DeliciousDelicious
  • FacebookFacebook
  • TwitterTwitter
  • LinkedInLinkedIn