China has largest number of obese children in world, study says

Mainland also ranks second behind the United States for number of obese adults, international research reports

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2017, 10:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2017, 11:21pm

China has the world’s biggest population of obese children and is second only to the United States in the number of obese adults, a global study has found.

According to the Global Burden of Disease report led by a team at the University of Washington in Seattle, China had 15 million obese children in 2015, followed by India with 14 million.

China also had 57 million obese adults, second globally to the United States with 79 million.

The report was published online by the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday.

The researchers looked at the prevalence of obesity among children and adults in 195 countries between 1980 and 2015, and concluded that about 5 per cent of children and 12 per cent of adults worldwide were obese in 2015.

They said national wealth was not the main factor driving the higher rates of obesity. Instead, increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy-dense foods, and intense marketing of such foods, could explain excess energy intake and weight gain among different populations, the report said.

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In an editorial published with the study, Edward Gregg, a diabetes expert with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said the most troubling finding was the roughly tripling of obesity in youth and young adults of ­developing, middle-income countries such as China, Brazil, and Indonesia.

“The study offers a discouraging reminder that the global ­obesity epidemic is worsening in most parts of the world and that its implications regarding both physical health and economic health remain ominous,” Gregg said.

“An early onset of obesity is likely to translate into a high ­cumulative incidence of type 2 ­diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease.”

Peking University nutrition professor Ma Guansheng said in a report on childhood obesity released last year that the rapid growth of the condition on the mainland was due to behavioural and environmental factors.

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Ma said fewer children were walking or cycling to school and higher academic demands left pupils less time for outdoor activities. Diets had also become ­unhealthier, with more children skipping breakfast, having ­unhealthy snacks and sugar-rich drinks.

Paediatrician Ding Zongyi said parents should monitor their children’s energy intake and ensure they get enough exercise.

“Children can have meat or sugary drinks, but they need to consume them at a normal speed. They should also stop eating the moment they don’t feel hungry rather than full. The energy intake difference is huge,” he said.