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Obesity Rising in Chinese Children (Who Eat Their Vegetables)

Obesity Rising in Chinese Children (Who Eat Their Vegetables)
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Obesity is on the rise among children in China. Data from Johns Hopkins University suggests that 20 percent of Chinese children are overweight and as much as a third of Chinese boys are. A 2004 report from Peking University had said that, in 1985, less than two percent of children were obese. According to The Atlantic, Donna Spruijt-Metz University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, an increase in sedentary activities (watching TV, using the computer) is one culprit, the same as it is for kids in the US.

But other findings from a study of 9,023 middle and high school students in seven cities in China were surprising: Also correlated with a higher incidence of obesity in Chinese children were “more vigorous exercise, less candy and fast food intake, less frequent snacking, more fruit consumption, and higher parental educational attainment.” Certainly in the US, it’s precisely the same things — more exercise, less candy, less fast food, less snacking, more fruit in one’s diet —  that are thought necessary to fight against obesity.

The study’s researchers include sociologists and psychologists from East Asia, who speculated about the “cultural and methodological reasons to account for these obesity-related paradoxes”:

Diets rich in vegetables, the researchers suspect, may also be rich in oil as the two most common methods of preparing vegetables is deep-frying and stir-frying. More educated parents, who are likely also richer, may be able to afford fast food, which is cheap in America but not so much in developing countries. Also, overweight children may be underreporting their intake of unhealthy food and may misperceive the quality of the exercise they do.

“Maybe it’s just overall a larger energy intake,” Spruijt-Metz adds. “There’s still a cultural perception in China that it’s healthy and desirable if you’re beefier.”

I didn’t grow up in China but in a Chinese-American family in northern California. Salad is not a feature of Chinese cuisine — come to think of it, the only time I recall seeing raw vegetables at a Chinese restaurant was as the garnish — and vegetables are either cooked or pickled. The Cantonese “peasant” cooking that my parents grew up on was heavy on vegetables; you’d use a bit of meat, sliced thinly, to add flavor and you’d make it go a long way. With China’s growing economic prosperity and Westernization, meat is plentiful (and the Chinese government even keeps a pork reserve).

(Photo of Chinese eggplant by scaredy_kat.)

Children are treasured, especially by Chinese grandparents. With families only allowed to have one child — and with a cultural preference for boys — Chinese children are probably being more doted on than ever, often with plenty of food.

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Photo by jadis1958

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39 comments

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2:21AM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Noted

11:00PM PST on Jan 15, 2014

Also, maybe if kids spent less time on their ipads and more time playing outside they wouldn't be in this mess

7:43AM PST on Jan 14, 2014

@ Lilithe M."As primitive people, we DID NOT evolve to be eating large quantities of FRUIT EVERYDAY! We ate meat and especially fatty meat", Hunter-gatherers did not eat fatty meat as wild animals have so little fat that finding fat was the problem. Near the coast, they could get fatty fish. Fruit is not sugar. Sugar together with fiber doesn't have the same effect as pop..
@Christa L"Chinese people are adopting the Western lifestyle". China's obesity problems come along with MacDonald's and Kentucky Fried, just like in EVERY other country.

3:41PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

guess not so surprising...

12:47PM PST on Dec 31, 2011

Interesting article, I think it is a cultural thing, status to be heavy, means one can afford to. Like having a big dog in some countries where most of the population is starving, status.

12:56AM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Thanks for posting.

5:03AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

really? chemicals? I though only dairy and meats cause all our ills.

6:52PM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

Children - and adults- everywhere are being increasingly exposed to hundreds of chemicals - including pesticides, cleaning materials, fragrance chemicals, plasticizers and more. Many of these are endocrine disrupters. Add the presence of hormones in food and water supplies, and even as pharmaceutical residue in the latter, and it is not surprising at all that obesity is rampant. For more info on many of these concerns, see: www.toxicsinfo.org

10:34AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

Sorry -- typo. Meant to write "Chinese government works quick in addressING problems hindering it's economic prosperity"

10:33AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

Chinese government works quick in addresses problems hindering it's economic prosperity. They depend on an able-bodied workforce, and unlike the US, serious parameters will be taken to overcome and epidemic.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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