Troubled by the rapid rise in youth obesity, Beijing’s municipal health bureau is planning to implement a newly-drafted five-year health plan in some 80% of the city’s primary and secondary schools. Schools are now required to maintain a health file for at-risk students compiling the results of regular check-ups with the school nurse.
This worrying health trend, however, will only worsen if – as studies suggest – that fatter pockets are the main culprit behind bigger waistlines. A recent study in the American Journal of Health Behavior suggests that youth obesity is more common in households with higher incomes and advanced education levels. Mark how Chinese children regularly eat a larger variety of vegetables and fruits than their counterparts in the West yet still pile on the extra kilos that push them into the overweight or even obese category. This peculiarity is borne out in a 2008 paper by Dr. Barry M. Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina and author of The World Is Fat, which blames the rise in obesity on the striking increase in energy-dense diets and fat intake (made possible by the availability of cheap, plentiful oils and animal-source foods); meanwhile, Westernization of eating patterns, along with consumption of fast food and sugar, are not nearly as culpable for China’s weight problem as most of us might assume. (Not yet, anyway.)
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