China’s rapid economic progress over the last two decades has decreased childhood thinness and stunting, but has led to a four-fold increase in child obesity, per findings of a latest study published on the CNN website. The study found childhood obesity levels have jumped from one-in-20 Chinese children to one-in-five, highlighting the grave consequences of recent economic boom in the country.
The study, which was published in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, used data of more than 1 million Chinese children aged between 7 and 18 between the time frame 1995 and 2014. The study found child thinness and stunting decreased from 7.5 percent to 4.1 percent, while inadequate nutrition intake and infections declined from 8.1 percent to 2.4 percent. However, on average, the number of obese children increased from 5.3 to 20.5 percent.
The study also found the impact of economic prosperity on child’s eating habits. Increasing income allowed Chinese households to invest more in food commodities, while urbanization provided much easier and speedy access to health facilities and quality education, the study revealed.
Jun Ma, co-author and professor in the Peking University said: “This suggests a pressing need for policy responses that may include taxation of food and beverage with added sugars and fats, subsidies to promote dietary diversity, and strategies to promote physical activity and health education.”
The authors of the study said China’s economy has fostered in recent years and the country has emerged as the second largest economy of the world. The aim of the study was to evaluate or access the impact of economic growth and advancement on malnutrition, while previous studies only emphasised on under-nutrition, the authors added.
Bai Li, a research fellow at the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham UK, who wasn’t a part of the research study said Chinese children consumed more junk food and were less active than they used to be.
“Children used to use their spare time to play outside; now they are inside in front of computers and the TV. There are many fast food chains in China now and many Chinese people are adopting new food like this,” Li said.
It is worth mentioning here that the current level of obesity among Chinese adults were lowest in the world. Lindsay M. Jaacks, an assistant professor at the department of global health and population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said: “In the absence of strong nutritional governance, China is likely to see a substantial increase in the prevalence of adult obesity as the current cohort of children and adolescents ages.”