Labrador Inuit Battling Obesity: Research

Nain is one of the five communities where people were studied for the 2008 Adult Inuit Health Survey. (CBC)A study done by Canadian university researchers and the Nunatsiavut government suggests 75 per cent of northern Labrador Inuit are either overweight or obese.

As part of the Adult Inuit Health Survey, clinicians measured the weight and waist circumference of 310 survey participants.

They found 74 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men had waist circumferences that put them at great risk for health problems.

“We all jokingly talk about as being Inuit apples, but from a health perspective, this is an area where we need to do some work,” said Gail Turner, director of health services with the Nunatsiavut government, commenting on the 2008 survey to CBC News on Thursday.

Inuit in northern Labrador have twice the Canadian average incidence of diabetes, and high blood pressure, according to the research done with professors from the University of Toronto and McGill University.

Ten per cent of all participants were diagnosed with diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes in Canada was 5.8 per cent in 2007.

More than 40 per cent of the survey’s participants over the age of 40 have high blood pressure.

A 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey estimated less than 20 per cent of all Canadians have high blood pressure.

Obesity a health risk

Obesity is known to increase a person’s risk for both diabetes and high blood pressure.

People in the Labrador communities of Nain, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik and Rigolet participated in the research.

Turner said it’s a challenge to eat well in northern Labrador where healthy food is expensive and many people don’t have a lot of money.

“What we can do is to help them work within their limited means to improve their nutrition and make wiser choices around the food that they eat,” she said.

More than half of the people surveyed said they smoke tobacco — more than double the national average of 22 per cent in 2007.

Turner said the other challenge is to get people more active in isolated communities that don’t have facilities.

Funding for the survey came from the federal government, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and The University of Toronto.

CBC News

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