HONG KONG – More than half of China's adult population is either overweight or obese, according to a new government report released on Wednesday.
Obesity rates in China have doubled in two decades, and health officials are warning of an increase in chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.
The report found that 34.3 percent of adults were overweight and 16.4 percent were obese. A group of 600,000 Chinese residents was examined between 2015 and 2019. By comparison, in 2012, according to a government survey published in 2015, 30 percent of Chinese adults were overweight and 11.9 were obese.
"The unhealthy lifestyle of residents is still widespread," said Li Bin, deputy director of China's National Health Commission, during a press conference on Wednesday. Most households use salt and oil in amounts that exceed recommended guidelines, and people are increasingly turning to processed foods and greasy restaurant meals.
In the past, China's health initiatives have emphasized the importance of exercise rather than restricting junk food and soda, in part because of Coca-Cola's influence on obesity research and food regulations.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Li cited sugary drinks as one of the causes of childhood obesity. "The frequent consumption of sugary drinks by children and adolescents has emerged as a major problem," he said. According to the latest data, 19 percent of children ages 6-17 are overweight or obese.
Mr. Li said officials would take steps to curb the rise in obesity and chronic diseases through a new initiative called Healthy China 2030. Zhao Wenhua, the chief nutritionist at China's Disease Control Center, said officials would encourage manufacturers to create low-fat and low-sugar snacks and beverages.
A food waste curbing bill was submitted for review Tuesday to the country's top legislature, the Chinese state intelligence service reported. The regulations include punishing social media influencers who make money by posting videos of themselves eating excessive amounts of food online with fines of up to $ 15,300 and requiring restaurants to do so To offer a variety of portion sizes.
The country's leader, Xi Jinping, launched a food waste campaign this summer to eradicate a deeply ingrained custom of ordering excessive meals in restaurants to demonstrate wealth and generosity. Although officials said there was no immediate food shortage, the Clean Plate initiative was launched after severe flooding devastated farming communities and food prices rose steadily.
Although the Chinese authorities frequently cite the government's success in reducing hunger over the past three decades, according to the World Food Program, nearly 151 million Chinese people still suffer from malnutrition. However, China's rapid development is largely responsible for a global shift in which obesity and related diseases are killing more people than malnutrition today.
The obesity statistics in China are part of a global pattern. Obesity in American adults has increased 12.4 percent over the past 18 years, with 42.4 percent of adults in the United States now living with the disease. Obesity has almost tripled worldwide since 1975, according to the World Health Organization.
Obesity has also emerged as the main indicator of the severity of coronavirus symptoms in patients with both diseases. A recent study from China that analyzed a group of 112 patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, found that of the 17 patients who died, 15 were either overweight or obese.