Shanghai Schoolchildren Getting “Very Fat Very Fast”

The past ten years have seen a surge in obesity rates among Shanghai’s schoolchildren, according to a Global Times report:

Obesity among Shanghai schoolchildren has increased 24.4 percent in the last decade, according to a survey by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

As many as 13.3 percent of primary schoolchildren are overweight and 6.5 percent obese – higher than the world average – Shanghai Evening Post quoted the survey as saying. The report did not define overweight or obese ….

Surveyors weighed 6,174 boys and 5,665 girls at 36 primary schools in Luwan, Huangpu, Yangpu and Baoshan districts and found obesity highest among boys in downtown areas of lesser-educated parents.

“Over-nutrition and lack of exercise are the causes,” survey leader Cai Meiqin, vice director of the nutrition department of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, told the Shanghai Evening Post.

“Children sit down and do homework when they get home and watch television immediately after finishing supper ….”

Children eat too much high-calorie food and drink too many sugar-sweetened beverages, said Hong Li, a doctor treating obesity and guiding nutrition for children at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center on Sunday.

A Shanghai Daily headline last year provided a concise but somewhat blunt summary of the problem: “Too many fat kids eat too much fast food, sit on fat butts” (via Shanghaiist).

Dietary changes have fuelled an “epidemic” of diabetes and other chronic conditions in China, which could have severe economic and even military consequences. From China SignPost:

China’s diabetes problems highlight the twin challenges of chronic diseases stemming from changing consumption habits enabled by China’s economic boom and from the graying of its society, which is also a source of substantial healthcare costs. Chronic diseases will likely continue to tax the economy and could also distract leaders’ strategic focus on externally-oriented efforts such as military development. More specifically, China’s military development will be subject to major internal constraints such as diabetes. We believe health-related costs in China deserve increasing attention for these and reasons of human interest ….

As China urbanizes and becomes wealthier, diets are shifting from the traditional rice and vegetables and toward meats, sweets, and processed foods. In the past decade, per capita sugar consumption in China has risen by 48%, according to the USDA. As in the U.S. and other countries, sweet beverages are a significant and growing source of sugar consumption.

… China is seeing a rapid increase in many of the chronic disease risk factors that plague large swathes of the U.S. Among them, car ownership, heavier and sweeter diets, and more sedentary lifestyles stand out. In addition, China’s low birthrate and lack of immigration (in sharp contrast to America’s exceptional, favorable demographics in both areas for a developed country) means its population is aging quickly, an additional risk factor for diabetes.

May 31, 2011 10:20 PM
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Categories: Economy, Sci-Tech, Society