The once-slim Chinese nation, kept thin by poverty and communist policies in the 20th century, is now on the fast track to a U.S.-style obesity crisis.
About 30% of all Chinese adults are overweight or obese, says Chen Chunming, a nutritional expert at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the Ministry of Health. “We don’t need to keep doing new surveys. We know the problem is severe and getting worse,” she says.
Public campaigns to fight China’s expanding weight problem are hindered by the nation’s newfound prosperity. “If you tell people not to eat hamburgers or other high-calorie foods, they say, ‘I’ve got money now, I’ll eat what I want,’ ” Chen says.
China’s heavyweights still lag behind the USA, where two out of three people are overweight or obese, but China “is on course to be exactly like the U.S. in 10 or 20 years,” says James Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.
[Update: Video added]
This July 2008 video, from the French news network France24, covers more of the obesity epidemic in China: