Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute Warns Rising Rates of Obesity in Children an Alarming Omen of Early Joint Wear

Christopher Smith Archive

CALGARY, AB – Alberta children may have joints worn beyond their years by middle age and may need hips and knees replaced sooner and in far greater numbers than the previous generation unless obesity rates are reversed, the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute (ABJHI) said today.

“Rising rates of obesity in our children are an alarming omen of early joint wear,” Dr. Ron Zernicke, Executive Director of the ABJHI, said. “Excess weight in adolescence can persist into adulthood when further weight gain is likely. Unless we take effective measures now to change a generation of young people who eat too much, eat unhealthy foods and don’t exercise enough, we could see the future need for joint replacements increase dramatically.”

Obese people have a nine-fold greater risk of osteoarthritis – the leading cause of joint degeneration. The only effective treatment for end-stage joint degeneration is surgery to repair the joint or replace it with an artificial device, Dr. Zernicke said.

The problem extends to weight-bearing joints, such as hips and knees, but excess weight also puts greater stress on the back, spine and neck.

A report released by a House of Commons health committee on Tuesday said 1,600,000 Canadian children were overweight or obese in 2004 – 26 per cent of the population aged 2 to 17. Just 15 per cent of children were overweight or obese 25 years ago. The increase is particularly notable among 12- to 17-year-olds, whose obesity rate tripled and whose overweight/obesity rate more than doubled.

In Alberta, 22 per cent of children are overweight or obese. The findings are reported by the Health Statistics Division at Statistics Canada and are based on the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey.

Artificial hip and knee joints currently have an estimated life expectancy of 10 to 15 years on average. This means middle-aged adults who have a joint replacement may need additional surgery to correct or replace their artificial joint at least once unless longer-wearing devices can be developed. This will place an increased burden on the health system.

About the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute

The Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating and maintaining a standard of bone and joint health and health care that is the best in the world. ABJHI’s work is focused on improving access to and enhancing the quality and efficiency of care, advancing research and knowledge, and promoting prevention and wellness. For more information, visit

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