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Many Sudburians losing the war in battle against bulge

By Ben Rowe Sudbury is not the blue ribbon winner when it comes to the fattest cities in Canada, but it?s close.
By Ben Rowe

Sudbury is not the blue ribbon winner when it comes to the fattest cities in Canada, but it?s close.

A survey done by the Globe and Mail and CTV found Sudbury?s population, on average, to be one of the most overweight in the country, just behind St. John?s, Nfld. and another northern Ontario community, Thunder Bay.

Canada?s easternmost capital tops the list with 56.6 per cent of adults overweight with Thunder Bay right behind at 55.3.

Neck-in-neck, or belly-in-belly with the Lake Superior port city is Sudbury, with 55.2 per cent of adults here considered overweight.

West Coast residents were slimmest on average, with Vancouver leading the way with only 37 per cent of adults deemed overweight.

The survey considered any person with a body fat percentage over 25 to be overweight. People whose body fat percentage was over 30 were considered obese. By contrast, professional hockey players usually have 10 to 15 per cent of body fat.

But why are so many Sudburians overweight or obese? The question was asked of Dr. Miguel Bombin, who teaches in Laurentian University?s anthropology program.

He said there are numerous reasons, but topping the list are bad eating patterns and the lifestyles of the population in the communities surveyed.

?In the case of Vancouver, it?s a cultural phenomenon (why there is far less obesity),? said Bombin.

There are two reasons for this cultural phenomenon. ?One, in Vancouver, people have the culture of doing more exercise outdoors. Also, there?s a large component of people there from East Asian origin, so there?s lots of Chinese people and people from India. And they tend to be less obese in general because of their types of diets.?

Diets rich in complex carbohydrates like rice and pasta are easier for the body to break down, Bombin explained.

In northern Ontario, however, there is only a small immigrant population, which means the average North American diet, which includes a lot of non-complex carbohydrates like white bread and french fries, is more common and adds up to a lot more people gaining weight and keeping it on, he said.

Bombin pointed out most of the communities with a high-obesity count are smaller cities and semi-rural areas, where ethnic foods are not as common.

Unfortunately, there?s no easy solution to getting thinner.

?The solution is promoting a healthy diet and physical activity,? Bombin said.

?But mostly diet has to be drastically changed. If you eat a lot of french fries and white bread and a lot of sugar and pops and things of that sort and don?t move, fundamentally you?ll put on weight.?

Getting the message across to people when they are young is the key, Bombin said.

If a child has unhealthy eating patterns and doesn?t exercise often, most often they will be overweight. If they are taught to eat properly when they?re young, the chances of them maintaining a healthy diet are much better, he said.

But Bombin stresses the fallibility of these surveys, noting that the margin of error can sway the results.

In this survey, the margin of error was 0.3 per cent plus or minus, meaning Sudbury could drop back into the rest of the pack in ranking, or another city could move up just as easily.

?Mostly, these cities are all pretty close,? he explained. ?When you do a survey you always have errors. So that number is not an absolute number, it?s plus or minus.

?If you count that margin of error in the survey, they all fall within the same (range).?

That doesn?t mean we shouldn?t take it seriously as study after study has shown people in Sudbury are less physically fit, more overweight and suffer from more serious illnesses than other communities our size in Ontario, he said.