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 such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
A new government report found that 34.3 percent of adults were overweight and 16.4 percent were obese. (The survey was for a group of 600,000 Chinese residents 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 exceeding 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, partly due to 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 are taking steps to curb the rise in obesity and chronic diseases with a new initiative called “Healthy China 2030”. Zhao Wenhua, the chief nutritionist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control, said officials would encourage manufacturers to create low-fat and low-sugar snacks and beverages.
A food waste curbing bill was submitted to the country’s highest legislature for review on Tuesday, 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 they offer a variety of serving sizes.
The country’s leader Xi Jinping launched a high-profile campaign against food waste 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.