It has become common knowledge that rates of overweight and obesity are increasing at an epidemic rate, not only in North America but around the world. Currently, about 1 out of every 4 Canadian adults is obese and 2 out of every 3 are over the healthy weight range. The number of obese adults in Canada has almost tripled in the last 25 years.

The prevalence of childhood obesity in Canada is just as alarming. In 1979 the obesity rate was 1% among children and adolescents aged 2 to 17 years old. Currently, the obesity rate is over 10% among children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 years old. Another 20% of these children and adolescents are overweight.

This is an issue of real concern because of the many health problems that are associated with excess body fat. The direct medical costs due to obesity in Canada have been estimated at about $2 billion. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has declared that "the increasing number of overweight and obese Canadians now poses one of the greatest threats ever to public health in this country."

Obesity is a leading cause of preventable illness and death in North America.People who are obese are at a much higher risk for serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and some cancers than people who have a healthy weight.

To find out what you can do to combat obesity, read "Managing obesity: an overview."