Science - December 13, 2007

Young Chinese are fattening fast

One in thirteen fat children on the planet lives in China, and the number is rising, according to research results published in the PhD thesis of Yanping Li of the department of Human Nutrition.

Four percent of Chinese children between the ages of seven and seventeen are overweight.
In the last twenty years China’s gross national product has increased tenfold, consumption of animal products has doubled, people have started to eat more fat and less vegetables, and children spend more time watching television.

Of children between the ages of seven and seventeen, four percent is overweight, according to Chinese government statistics. That might not seem like many, but the rate is increasing so fast that ‘overweight and obesity are reaching epidemic proportions’, according to Li.

Chinese girls suffer more from their overweight than boys, Li discovered when she interviewed ten-year-olds at schools in Beijing. They suffer more often from depression and lack of self-esteem. Chinese boys are less affected by their extra kilos: although they also lack self-esteem, they are only as depressed as their normal weight classmates.

As its economy takes off, China has inherited more Western health problems, Li’s research shows. Of the girls who were underweight, twenty percent wanted to be thinner. / Willem Koert

Yanping Li receives her PhD on 17 December. Her promotors are Professor Evert Schouten, chair of Epidemiology and Professor Frans Kok, chair of Nutrition and Health.

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