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Boys and girls getting bigger and fatter
By Cui Ning (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-09 23:43

Chinese people are getting bigger, perhaps stronger, but definitely fatter.

Those are the facts drawing responses from the nation's health, education and even clothing design sectors.

According to a Ministry of Education survey, since 2000 the average height of boys 7 through 18 years old has increased 0.48 centimetres, while the group has put on 1.35 kilograms more weight.

The average height for girls in the same age group has increased 0.38 centimetres while they, too, are putting on weight, some 1.03 kilograms more than in 2000.

The ministry began conducting so-called physical surveys every two years among students instead of the previous five year span in 2000.

Experts attribute the increases in size to the improvements the nation has seen in diet and nutrition, although there is some concern that the extra weight put on is not necessarily a healthy thing.

The newly released survey had been made from 2002-03 in Beijing and Chongqing municipalities and another 12 provinces or autonomous regions. It covered an index of items such as body make-up, physiological functions, physical quality and the child's health status.

In Shanghai, East China's Jiangsu Province and other eastern areas, men aged 20-55 have become an average of 1.75 centimetres taller than 10 years ago, according to Shanghai-based East China University.

The university has also conducted a sample survey on adult women from 1999 through today. The university did not provide specific results of the survey, but said the height of adult women has also increased over that of several years ago.

Zhang Wenbin, a professor at the university's Costume Research Institute, says previous standards used in clothing technology may need readjustment to meet the changes in people's stature.

On the other hand, the latest survey by the Ministry of Education indicates that the average height and weight of urban teenagers are slightly higher than those of their rural peers.

This may be caused by disparities in living standards, especially in terms of nutrition.

The survey also found the number of overweight and fat students has increased in both urban and rural areas.

In urban areas, the number of overweight boys aged 7-18 has increased to nearly 12 per cent over 9 per cent recorded in 2000, while overweight girls of the same age grew nearly 8 per cent from 6 per cent in 2000.

In rural areas, both the number of fat boys and girls aged 7-18 increased 4 per cent over 2 per cent in 2000.

Health experts said the increase of obesity in students is mainly caused by insufficient physical exercise and overeating of fatty foods with high calorie.

On average, the number of overweight people in China tops 200 million, at least 30 million of whom have morbid weight problems.

Li Chunsheng, a doctor with the Beijing-based Xiyuan Hospital affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said obesity was more common among people over the age of 50, with the ratio standing at 43.1 per cent among males and 55.43 per cent among females.

Li said obesity has become one of the serious diseases threatening the lives of Beijingers, especially primary and middle school students.

The ratio of obese children in Beijing had climbed to 18.17 per cent in 2002 from 10.61 per cent in 1991.

Li warned that obesity increases risks of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

"The life expectancy of people who are overweight by 30 per cent is four

years shorter than that of normal groups," the doctor said.

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