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Nation acts to resolve nutrition deficiency
By Zhang Feng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-12 22:05

China is drafting a new national non-communicable diseases prevention and control programme, a senior official has revealed.

Drafting of the programme is being hastened by a report of a national survey on the status of nutrition and health of Chinese people, which was released yesterday.

The report shows China continues to face the twin challenges of nutrition deficiency and nutrition imbalance, as well as a rapid increase in non-communicable diseases.

China will promulgate relevant regulations, guidance about public nutritional intervention, agriculture, food manufacturing, distribution and marketing, said Vice-Minister of Health Wang Longde.

Wang made the remarks at a press conference Tuesday held by the Information Office of the State Council.

It is estimated that more than 160 million people are currently suffering from hypertension in China, which also has more than 20 million diabetic patients, 200 million overweight people and over 60 million obese residents.

Moreover, all these chronic diseases are increasing at a rapid rate due to unhealthy lifestyles, such as the intake of too much fat and too little exercise.

The energy contribution from fat reached 35 per cent in 2002, exceeding the World Health Organization's recommended upper limit of 30 per cent.

In contrast, the energy contribution from cereals among urban residents is only 47 per cent, which is significantly lower than the recommended range of 55 to 65 per cent.

Moreover, the deficiency in micro-nutrients such as iron and vitamin A is a common problem among urban and rural populations.

China seriously lacks nutritionists, Wang said, and his ministry is drafting relevant regulation on the management of this sector.

In China, only those large-scale hospitals have professional nutritionists.

In the future, all institutes and companies that produce and provide food should have nutritionists, Wang said.

"Another very important area of work for us is to increase public awareness on the scientific intake of food and nutrition both in urban and rural areas," Wang said.

In rural areas, the problem is not only related to the lack of nutrition caused by poverty, but is also the result of the serious lack of necessary knowledge, Wang noted.

For example, many farmers should be able to get enough nutrition but do not know how to do so properly.

Wang said he once witnessed in a village that many mothers sold eggs at the market in order to buy sugar or chocolate for their children.

Moreover, there is a great shortage of vitamin A in rural areas. However, it is very easy for farmers to get carrots, which are a very good source of vitamins.

"China has entered into a very vital period of nutrition intervention as its economy develops rapidly, otherwise, we will follow in the steps of some developed countries," Wang warned.

For example, the ratio between obesity and the overweight population is three to one, which means a lot of people are expected to suffer obesity, the most dangerous factor in chronic diseases.

Many overseas medicine manufacturers are aiming their products at the Chinese market because they believe that the incidence of diabetes in China is likely to exceed that in Western countries.

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