Sep 23, 2010

beating the usa

Interesting stats from China,
The percentage of overweight people in the cities rose to 30%, and the Beijing Morning Post published results of separate city survey indicating that in the capital the figure was as high as 60%.
I think more interesting is this
According to the latest statistics from China, the proportion of obesity among children under the age of 15 increased from 15% in 1982 to 27% today.
Almost a doubling of obesity in children in the last 30 years to a number that is probably higher than most people would guess.  And the real acceleration happened in the last 10 years.  China still has a long way to go before overtaking the US in terms of overweight and obese percentages but there are a few issues with the situation.

First the speed at which China is adopting modern industrial practices is fast and this would apply to food processing.  As it does in the US, this will allow the substitution of expensive protein and fat for cheap carbohydrates; a natural economic arbitrage.  So the primary movement in their diet will be towards the US diet and it will occur very quickly.

Second the increase in obesity is more dramatic in kids.  Some research suggests your fat prevalence is defined early in age so this is the natural area to focus on problems.  In fact this chart (albeit preliminary and desiginated as not ready for prime time data) shows a particular set of metrics which suggest the situation is worse than the US already.

One reason for this might be related data that suggests that Asians are 60% more susceptible to diabetes than whites (good series of articles here).  And I've previously gone deep into my belief that the two issues are intimately related.  It's not hard to put two and two together.  If Asians are more susceptible to the effects of carbohydrates then they are probably on a path to over take the US in weight issues long term.

The last concern is that the all of the Chinese originated articles I've read on the subject highlight the same incorrect issues that the Western article blame - sedentary lifestyle, too much fat, too much meat, etc.  They run the risk of employing policies which will accelerate the problem much like the US Farm Bill accelerated the issue here.

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