Blubber as bad as phlegm? Clogged arteries as bad as iron lungs?
By Amy Ferguson
You may want to think twice next time you order that burger
and fries, because according to the latest study by the Heart
and Stroke Foundation of Canada, “fat is the new tobacco.”
The Foundation’s Annual Report Card on Canadians’ Health
found the number of overweight and obese Canadians poses a
huge threat to the nation’s public health.
“We’re at the place we were 30 years ago with
smoking,” said Elissa Freeman of the Heart and Stroke
Foundation of Ontario.
Since the 1970s, smoking has decreased by 53 per cent while
the number of obese adults has increased by about 50 per cent.
According to Freeman, the numbers keep growing.
“The problem is availability. When you walk out of class,
the first thing you see are vending machines and cafeterias
selling junk food. We need the food industry to step up and
offer healthier products,” she explained.
“About 30 per cent of teenagers are in fast food restaurants
every day,” said Anthony Graham, cardiologist at St.
Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and spokesperson for the
Heart and Stroke Foundation.
“It’s a complicated problem,” he added. “Regulating
tobacco is easier because there is no safe level. Food on the
other hand is vital, and that makes coming up with a solution
In an effort to combat this growing trend, the Foundation
has proposed an action plan aimed at both the food industry
and the government. Suggestions include removing vending machines
with junk food from elementary and high schools, having the
food industry reduce the amount of saturated and trans fat
in foods, making nutritional information in restaurants mandatory
and implementing a public health system with resources about
obesity and the prevention of chronic diseases.
“I generally agree with the suggestions made by the
Heart and Stroke Foundation,” said John Jordan, professor
of family medicine at Western.
“Targeting [both the food industry and the government]
will hopefully prove effective. Physicians can only do so much.
Changes need to be made on a day to day basis,” Jordan
said. “Even something as simple as changing the oil used
by [fast food restaurants] can have a huge impact.”
Alicia Garcia, professor in human ecology at Brescia University
College, said consumers play a vital role. “While the
recommendations [made by the Heart and Stroke Foundation] are
excellent, in the end it is the individual’s responsibility.”