China’s battle of bulge

CHINA is getting fat. A study in a British medical journal estimates that China now accounts for the world’s one fifth obese population. Nearly one in five Chinese is excessively overweight. The problem is particularly acute among children, particularly boys, in the 7 to 18 age group.

The fat phenomenon is relatively recent. The number of obese children has gone up 28 times in a span of 15 years. That is, when the communist giant had started reaping the benefits of a market oriented economy and its GDP graph steadily moving upwards.

Three decades after dumping the Soviet-style centralised economic system and embracing the capitalistic development model, modern China is enjoying an unprecedented prosperity. But its fast-track growth and creation of wealth for millions of Chinese have brought in their own peculiar problems generally associated with rich countries. One of them is obesity.

According to conservative estimates, more than 250 million people are so plump that they could be categorised as corpulent. The expanding Chinese girth problem is even attracting international attention. A recent conference in Australia has debated how a developing country like China is fast catching up with the West in the battle of the bulge.

The reasons for bulging waistlines are not far to seek: Westernisation and industrialisation are changing the food habits of many Chinese, particularly those of the young generation, from traditional diet to fast food; the new found wealth is reducing physical activity and increasing motorised transport, sedentary lifestyle and old beliefs that rotundity is a sign of health and prosperity.

Overweight is not a disease but an unwanted byproduct of modern lifestyle. Obesity is a major problem worrying some of the rich countries like the US, where some experts consider it as an epidemic. As the fat population goes up, so do its health-related problems that put extra burden on governments in terms of medical costs. Globally, fat people may have few options to weigh but their governments have to carry the burden of obesity on their shoulders with related illnesses. China is no exception. It has already controlled its ballooning population. Now it’s time to take a hard look at its expanding waistline.

More news from OPINION