China has the second-largest population of obese people in the world, behind only long-time champions the United States in the size stakes, a newly published medical journal revealed Thursday.
There were 62 million obese people in China in 2013, making up nearly one tenth of the 671 million people worldwide. Coupled with overweight people, the world total stands at 2.1 billion.
However, the figures are less shocking than they might initially appear, due to China housing the most people of any shape and size, currently standing at around 1.36 billion. Proportionately, the nation is far from the fattest in the world, that dubious honour goes to Tonga, an island in the South Pacific where over 90 percent of adults are either overweight or obese.
That aside, the study conducted by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has unearthed some alarming trends. Using data from 188 countries over 33 years, researchers found that China had the fourth-greatest increase in overweight/obesity prevalance among children during the study period.
Dr Marie Ng, assistant professor of global health at IHME, said childhood obesity in China is an "issue that really needs attention. The proportion of obese boys, in particular, is almost double the proportion of obese men [at 6.9 and 3.8 per cent respectively].”
Over the last few decades, China's appetite has increased along with its wealth. Access to larger portions of unhealthier have become much more widespread, with tastes also becoming more Westernized. This, paired with the younger generation's less-than-enthuastiac attitude to exercise, may have led to an overall rise in obesity.
But the issue is not exclusive to China. As director of IHME Dr Christopher Murray noted, "not one country has achieved success in reducing obesity rates" in the last three decades. Murray added that IHME expects obesity "to rise steadily as incomes rise in low and middle-income countries in particular, unless urgent steps are taken to address this public health crisis.”
In the study, overweight was defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 and above and lower than 30, while obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or greater.