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Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
China battles obesity
Obese man
Diet and lifestyle is being blamed
By Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

Research has shown that about 18% of the Chinese population are overweight.

Among those between 35 and 59 the situation is worse: more than half of them are overweight, a figure similar to that in industrialised countries.

The figures, revealed by government medical specialists, show city dwellers and women are more at risk.
Chinese boy
China's young may suffer from obesity in the future

Chinese doctors say changing diet and lifestyles are taking a growing toll on a nation where being overweight was once a rarity.

Specialists believe that China's young generation, often reared on a diet of junk food and little exercise, is particularly at risk.

Between 5% and 10% of the Chinese youth are considered obese by World Health Organization Standards.

Fat farms

These figures are expected to double within a decade.

Fat farms, where children try to sweat off their excess weight, have done a roaring trade in recent years.

Yet the latest research by doctors from the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine suggests that the problem is affecting all age groups.

And with more and more people, especially in the cities, eating greater quantities of meat, eggs and dairy products, and less vegetables, doctors warn that obesity could become China's biggest health threat.

The nation already has a 100 million people suffering from high blood pressure and 26 million with diabetes.

Yet while calling for healthier lifestyles, experts also caution against overreaction.

Many women are taking diet pills when they are not actually overweight - as they try to conform to the stereotypes of slim women increasingly common in Chinese media and advertisements.

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See also:

20 Mar 00 | Health
'Diet dust' hope for obese
20 Aug 99 | Health
Weight loss helps quit smoking
27 May 99 | Health
Task force takes on obesity
29 Mar 99 | Health
Fat-busting foods arrive
21 Nov 98 | Asia-Pacific
WHO fights smoking in China
19 Aug 99 | Health
Asia faces diabetes explosion
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