More than half of Chinese adults are either overweight or obese, a study conducted the country’s National Health Commission (NHC) revealed recently.
Obesity rates among Chinese adults have also more than doubled in less than two decades, from 7.1% in 2002 to 16.4% this year and health authorities are warning of a surge in chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer. As China’s economy grows, rising overweight and obesity rates pose an additional burden to its public health.
As per reports, Obesity has also emerged as a major indicator of the severity of coronavirus symptoms in patients with both diseases.
The study found that 34.3% of adults were overweight and 16.4% were obese based on a survey of a group of 600,000 Chinese residents between 2015 and 2019.
By comparison, 30% of Chinese adults were overweight and 11.9% obese in 2012, according to a government survey released in 2015. In 2002, 29.9% of Chinese adults were overweight, including obese. In 2012, that figure rose to 42%, according to previous reports released Chinese health authorities and 2020 saw this figure jumping to 50.7%.
Li Bin, deputy director of the NHC, told media that the overweight and obesity rates among residents in both urban and rural areas and across all age groups are steadily rising and it is a severe problem. Li cited sugar-sweetened beverages as prominent cause of childhood obesity.
According to the latest data, 19% of children aged 6 to 17 are overweight or obese. Zhao Wenhua, the chief nutritionist at China’s Center for Disease Control, said that officials would encourage manufacturers to produce snacks and beverages that are low in fat and sugar.
It’s partly due to huge changes in dietary and eating habits brought on the country’s rapid economic growth. During the 1950s and 60s, famine saw an estimated 45 million Chinese people starve to death.
And until 1993, people had to use government-distributed food vouchers to get staples such as rice, oil, eggs and meat. President Xi Jinping launched a high-profile campaign against food waste this summer, seeking to eliminate a deep-rooted custom of ordering excessive dishes in restaurants as a demonstration of wealth and generosity.
Though officials said there were no imminent food shortages, the initiative was launched after severe floods destroyed farming communities and food prices steadily climbed. A draft law seeking to discourage food waste was submitted to the country’s top legislative body for review last week, the state news agency reported.
The provisions include punishing social media influencers who make money posting videos of themselves eating excessive amounts of food online with fines of up to $15,300, and requiring restaurants to offer a variety of portion sizes.
Though Chinese authorities often cite efforts in reducing hunger over the past three decades, according to the World Food Programme, nearly 151 million Chinese people still suffer from malnourishment.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 4 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.
Worldwide, obesity has been on the rise too, having nearly tripled since 1975, according to WHO. In 2016, 39% of adults globally which is more than 1.9 billion people were overweight, including over 650 million who were obese.