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Childhood obesity rises from 1% to 17% in China, blamed on Western lifestyle

Posted:  Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Western lifestyle cause for childhood obesity outburst in China

Western lifestyle influence is making Chinese children obese! China is facing the serious issue of rapid increase in childhood and adolescent obesity, which may lead to an escalation of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A new study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, showed an alarming increase in childhood obesity from 1% 1985 compared to 17% of boys and 9% of girls in 2014.

In a longitudinal study carried out by the Department of Education in Shandong Province, China between 1985 and 2014, data were collected from six national surveys on schoolchildren. About 27,840 rural students aged 7 - 18 years were selected. Their anthropometric measurements (height and weight) and body mass index (BMI) were calculated. Cut-off points recommended by Working Group on Obesity in China (WGOC), the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF), and the World Health Organization (WHO) were used as standards for the classification of overweight and obesity.

Results were startling: the prevalence of overweight and obesity increased from 0.74% and 0.03% in 1985 to 16.35% and 17.20% in 2014 in boys, whereas in girls, the prevalence of overweight and obesity increased from 1.45% and 0.12% in 1985 to 13.91% and 9.11% in 2014, respectively. The higher incidence in boys can be attributed to the preferential treatment given to them. Also, the Chinese 2005 National Youth Risk Behaviour Surveillance highlighted that the consumption of soft drinks in boys was 4.3% and 12.7% spend time in playing computer games compared to 2.7% and 4.35% of girls respectively.

Dr. Ying-Xiu Zhang, Lead investigator, Shandong Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Shandong University Institute of Preventive Medicine, Jinan, Shandong, China says, "The rises in overweight and obesity coincide with increasing incomes in rural households and we expect this trend to continue in the coming decades in Shandong Province and other regions of China."

Also, Dr. Zhang was worried that the prevalence was rising faster in children aged 7-12 years than in adolescents (13 to 18 years) and said, "In China today, people eat more and are less physically active than they were in the past. The traditional Chinese diet has shifted towards one that is high in fat and calories and low in fibre."

Prof. Joep Perk, the cardiovascular prevention spokesperson for the European Society of Cardiology, suggests that the alarming rise in childhood/adolescent obesity can be controlled by returning to former dietary regime, avoiding junk foods and parents educating children about healthy food choices. In addition, Dr. Zhang says, "This is a wake-up call for policymakers that rural China should not be neglected in obesity interventions. We need to educate children on healthy eating and physical activity, and monitor their weight to check if these efforts are making a difference."

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