Obesity in China is Exploding
When you picture Chinese people do you picture fat people? When you picture Chinese food, do you picture fatty meats? Me neither, but I guess it’s time to. Look at this chart showing how the Chinese obesity rate has exploded since 1980:
More than a quarter of the adult population, or roughly 350m people, is overweight or obese (more than 60m squeeze into the latter camp).
The Chinese are not actually eating more as they get richer: the average daily intake has dropped a little over the past ten years, from 2,100 calories in 2002 to a little more than 2,000 today. This suggests that a sedentary lifestyle may be hurting people’s health as much as changes in diet. Rapid urbanisation means more people are leaving the fields to work in less strenuous manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile in the cities, walking and biking have been replaced by driving cars and sitting on public transport. Recent surveys show that less than 10% of urban dwellers exercise regularly.
Childhood obesity has grown hugely in richer coastal cities. During summer breaks parents send off their pudgy little emperors to weight-loss camps that have sprung up everywhere. The exam-oriented education system doesn’t help matters either: although schools are required to set aside at least an hour for exercise every day, they routinely cancel gym classes to make room for other courses. In May the Lancet, a medical journal, published a study showing that the obesity rate among Chinese boys is 6.9%, almost twice as high as that among adult men.