Earlier this year, Discovery News named the largest countries in the world – and they weren’t talking about land mass. This hefty breaking story was about the mass of the people living in those countries, and the results were heavy. As of spring 2014, more than 50 per cent of the world’s obese population live in just 10 countries, the top six being:
1. The United States: To the surprise of no one, the US weighs in at number one. The reasons are for these gains are many. The plethora of cheap, processed foods that are readily available, inactive lifestyles and fat as the “new normal” all play a role in this weighty dilemma.
2. China: Obesity is relatively new in China, with only the last generation expanding in numbers that raised concerns. One possible culprit is the rapid rise of cities that have poor planning for walkability and active lifestyles. The correlation between the booming urban sprawl and the sudden obesity epidemic is currently being studied.
3. India: One study points out that while those living at or below the poverty line in America are more likely to be overweight (due to consuming the more affordable unhealthy foods), India is the opposite. Here the poor are underweight while obesity is seen among the affluent.
4. Russia: Russia may not hold onto this number four spot for very long since changes to importing processed foods from America and Europe caused waistlines to shrink dramatically.
5. Brazil: Ironically, Brazil had been working hard to eradicate child hunger. In a job a little too well done, Brazil is now facing an obesity epidemic. What happened? Perhaps Bolsa-Familia is to blame. While introduced to help poor families, the side effect of this cash transfer program saw profit-hungry companies tout their wares door-to-door, bringing affordable soda and other processed foods to the homes; no trips to the supermarket needed. Nestle even went so far as to claim they were “offer[ing] access to nutrition, health and wellbeing to the remote community of the north region” – and proceeded to peddle mostly ice cream, chocolate and yogurt.
6. Mexico: With over 30 per cent of the population obese, Mexico is hoping a soda tax will discourage people from consuming sugary beverages. The average Mexican drinks nearly half a litre of soda a day. The National Institute of Public Health hopes a 10 per cent tax will reduce soda consumption and prevent up to 630,000 cases of diabetes by 2030.
While Canada did not make this list (nor is it ranked in the top 10), Canadian obesity rates are on the rise. “Between 1985 and 2011, the prevalence of adult obesity in Canada increased from 6.1 per cent to 18.3 per cent,” cites this trend analysis. “Taking into account regional variations, we predict that by 2019…. half of the Canadian provinces will have more overweight or obese adults than normal-weight adults.”
An unhealthy body weight can lead to many health issues, and there is another problem facing obese Canadians: life insurance.
The unfortunate side effect of excess pounds often includes high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and heart disease. Since preferred rates are given to the healthy individuals, overweight life insurance seekers could find themselves with heavy premiums or even denial of coverage.
The issue in play is that underwriters have to mitigate their risk. If they are insuring an individual that appears unhealthy, they assume that individual is going to cost them money sooner than later. Is this fair? Of course not. There are many times when weight gain has nothing to do with unhealthy eating or lack of exercise. Certain medications, complications from pregnancy and injuries that limit mobility can cause weight gain.
Thankfully, no medical life insurance is gaining traction across Canada, giving people that would traditionally be denied insurance a hassle-free way to obtain a policy. No medical life insurance is just that: it does not require you to be examined by a doctor to get a life insurance policy. If you have a pre-existing condition or are worried that your weight will weigh heavily on your ability to qualify for a good rate, look into no medical insurance.
There are two types of no medical life insurance. Simplified issue policies ask some health-related questions and the benefit is typically around $150,000. Guaranteed issue does not have any questions and the maximum benefit is around $25,000.
Prevention through healthy eating and active living is your best bet in the fight against obesity. Even if your weight gain is due to factors beyond your control, nourishing your body through diet and exercise can keep your risk factors for disease low – and when proved by a doctor that your heart and blood pressure are normal, you have a good chance of qualifying for a preferred rate. For those that do not qualify, or those that simply want to skip the hassle of a medical exam, it’s no medical life insurance to the rescue.