With all the talk about green house gases and global warming at the G-8 summit and the announcement of China’s future
economic dominance, much of the world is coming around to recognizing the nation as the most likely next world superpower. But China may be on track to overtake the U.S. in more than just production and pollution. A new study in the July/August issue of the journal of Health Affairs reports that the nation’s obesity levels are rising dramatically. More than a quarter of adults are either overweight or obese, and the health problem is increasing at a rate faster than all other countries except Mexico (sour cream on those nachos?).
The problem may seem strange in a country where starvation is still a major threat to many, a situation President Hu addressed Wednesday at G-8 meetings. Hu said there are now more than 800 million people worldwide in danger of starvation, a number set to rise with swelling food prices.
But just because some Chinese are getting more food doesn’t mean they have better diets. In fact, the study shows the classic Chinese diet of veggies and rice is being replaced by one heavy in fat, with only one percent of the population consuming less than 10 percent of their calories from animal-based fat in 2006. The health complications emerging from excess weight are serious, experts say, and the trend could affect not only China but other parts of the developing world.
“What’s happening in China should be seen as a marker for what is going to hit the rest of the developing world if we fail to act,” said study author Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina.
“We need to find the right investments and regulations to encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, or we risk facing higher rates of death, disease, and disability and the related costs,” he added.
Combined with lack of exercise, another growing problem in urbanizing China, an unhealthy diet can lead to rises in cancer and coronary heart disease, upping the health care strain nationwide. McDonalds, anyone?
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