The prevalence of abdominal obesity in Quebec is of increasing concern: it has doubled since 1990, from 21 to 48 percent for women and 14 to 32 percent for men.

A new study from the National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) states that about one in three men has a waist circumference equal to or greater than the 102-centimetre threshold while about one in two women has a waist circumference equal to or greater than the threshold value of 88 centimetres.

The INSPQ said that several large-scale epidemiological studies have shown that waist circumference is associated more closely than the Body Mass Index with the risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The Body Mass Index is the indicator usually used for population weight monitoring, but the INSPQ says this measure is an imperfect indicator, since it does not provide information on the distribution of body fat, while measuring waist circumference is a better reference.

The study states that for both young adults (18-34 years), middle-aged adults (35-64) and older adults (65-74 years), the percentage of adults with a high risk of developing a range of chronic diseases more than doubled in most of the subgroups studied.

Compared with the 1981 data, the relative increase in abdominal obesity is even more substantial among young adults. The INSPQ therefore concludes that more Quebecers could develop chronic diseases related to abdominal obesity earlier in their adult lives.

The INSPQ states that its study is the first to document the evolution of the waist circumference of Quebec adults.