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Obesity threatens Chinese
Updated: 2004-11-15 17:05

More than seven percent of Chinese adults are obese and more than 22 percent are overweight.

That's according to the results of China's first national survey on diet, nutrition and disease. Obesity is a major cause of diabetes today.

A gymnasium is a special workout centre for just a few of an estimated 20 million overweight Chinese people. At 1,250 US dollars per person, the weight-loss program doesn't come cheap. But it's money well spent.

Wang Yousong, head fitness coach, said, "Obesity is the cause of many diseases, especially type two diabetes. People come here not just to lose weight, but for the sake of their health."

Studies show that an increase in one kilogram of bodyweight increases the possibility of getting diabetes by 5 percent. The likelihood of obese people getting diabetes is said to be three times higher than people with normal weight levels.

Obesity can reduce the life expectancy of a type two diabetes patient by eight years. At Beijing Chaoyang Diabetes Hospital doctors give out free information on diabetes. And one of the things they warn against is obesity, especially among the young.

Liu Fang, directing physician, Beijing Chaoyang Diabetes Hospital, said, "Obesity is becoming a major modifiable risk factor causing diabetes. The situation is becoming more serious among children."

Obesity rates among children have reached around 8 percent in China's big cities. Experts say this dramatic increase in overweight kids will result in more childhood cases of type 2 diabetes.

And the younger age of onset increases the risk of serious complications such as heart disease and blindness. Over-indulging them now means burdening both them and society in the future. But raising public awareness takes time.

Liu said, "The biggest challenge now is that few people realize the seriousness of the disease, neither adults nor the younger generation."

China's progress in reducing poverty has thrown new challenges of a completely different nature. One major problem is access to an increasingly fatty diet.

In the capital, six out of ten people are overweight or obese. While the twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity already represent the biggest health challenge of the 21st century, the message from the medical community is clear: a balanced diet and regular exercises are necessary or the problem will become too big to control.

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