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Body weights on rise in China

Report says half of adults face obesity; oily, salty food cited by TIFFANY MAY THE NEW YORK TIMES | December 25, 2020 at 3:31 a.m.

HONG KONG -- More than half of China's adult population is either overweight or obese, according to a new government report released Wednesday.

Obesity rates in China have doubled within two decades, and health authorities are warning of a surge in chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

A new government report found that 34.3% of adults were overweight and 16.4% were obese. By comparison, 30% of Chinese adults were overweight and 11.9% obese in 2012, according to a government survey released in 2015.

"The unhealthy lifestyles of residents is still common everywhere," said Li Bin, deputy director of China's National Health Commission, at a news conference Wednesday. Most households use salt and oil in quantities that exceed recommended guidelines, he said, and people are increasingly turning to processed foods and greasy restaurant meals.

In the past, China's health initiatives have emphasized the importance of exercise rather than cutting back on junk food and soda, in part because of Coca-Cola's lobbying influence on obesity-related research and food regulations.

But on Wednesday, Li cited sugar-sweetened beverages as one of the causes of childhood obesity. "The frequent consumption of sugary beverages by children and adolescents has presented itself as a prominent problem," he said. According to the latest data, 19% of children 6 to 17 are overweight or obese.

Li said officials would take steps to curb the spike in obesity and chronic diseases with a new initiative called "Healthy China 2030." Zhao Wenhua, chief nutritionist at China's Center for Disease Control, said officials would encourage manufacturers to produce snacks and beverages that are low in fat and sugar.

A draft law seeking to discourage food waste was submitted to the country's top legislative body for review Tuesday, the state-run China News Service reported. The provisions include punishing social media influencers who make money by posting videos of themselves eating excessive amounts of food online with fines of up to $15,300, and requiring restaurants to offer a variety of portion sizes.

The country's leader, Xi Jinping, opened a high-profile campaign against food waste this summer, seeking to eliminate a deep-rooted custom of ordering excessive dishes in restaurants as a demonstration of wealth and generosity. Though officials said there were no imminent food shortages, the "clean plate" initiative was started after severe floods destroyed farming communities and food prices steadily climbed.

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