China Following the U.S. into Obesity Epidemic
> 1/10/2007 10:04:28 AM

Only 45 years after the deaths of 30 million citizens in a large-scale famine, Chinese children, particularly those living in more prosperous areas of the country, are growing larger at an astounding rate, and their obesity rates may very soon catch up with those of American kids. China's first official health survey, completed three years ago, estimated that, between 1992 and 2002 alone, nearly 60 million people became obese. Reports as early as 2000 listed more than 50% of Chinese citizens aged 35 to 59 as overweight.

Experts list modern industrialization and its various components as the primary causes for this downward shift in the physical health of the average Chinese citizen. The increasing availability of previously scarce foods and technologies leads to more convenience-oriented eating patterns and sedentary lifestlyes. Fatty meats, dairy products and other heavy foods have increasingly become staples of the Chinese diet. Notoriously unhealthy American chains like McDonald's and KFC now report booming business in China. And as more of the Chinese earn enough to afford cars and computers, physical activity becomes less of a necessity.

While 15% of Chinese children are now considered overweight, the contrast between affluent urban areas and poorer, rural regions, particularly in the country's Western provinces, is striking. Malnutrition still affects as many as 120 million Chinese citizens. The fact that so many still go hungry in a country whose international influence only continues to grow does not bode well for future health trends. Common philosophy is not helping:

Bigger children are a source of pride and proof of prosperity for many Chinese. "The old saying, 'A fat child is a healthy child,' is still too prevalent," says a prominent child-health researcher in the Chinese Ministry.    

Those suffering from obesity turn to acupuncture, holistic treatments and even fat camps to reduce their waistlines and their blood pressure, but education is the most effective, and sometimes the most difficult, solution. Government and education officials hold a large part of the responsibility for informing their citizenry on acceptable diets. 100 million people in China have high blood pressure and 26 million more have been diagnosed with diabetes; as long as the country at large continues to follow Western dietary and lifestyle trends, this epidemic will only grow larger.

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