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Children's weight gain alarms doctors

By Julia Han, South China Morning Post, Tuesday 27 March 2001

Junk food has produced increasingly overweight urban children and alarmed medical specialists as youngsters eat more than their bodies need, mainland agencies have reported.

A survey in Tianjin's primary and middle schools showed the number of obese children rose from 3 per cent a decade ago to more than 20 per cent, according to Tianjin Daily.

Beijing Daily had said the number of overweight children in the capital went from 3 per cent in 1990 to nearly 14 per cent last year.

High-calorie, high-fat food plus insufficient exercise and a taste for sweets or fast foods have given children more energy than they need, medical experts said.

They suggested children eat more vegetables and roughage and fewer snacks. They said obesity may slow development causing intelligence and fertility problems.

A questionnaire from one Beijing primary school said more than half the students visited fast food restaurants once a month, while the overweight or malnourished pupils visited twice a month, according to Beijing Daily. Birthday parties often drew students to fast food restaurants where they could listen to music, get toys and take home coupons for future visits.

The Beijing paper said one 11-year-old girl weighted in at 60 kilograms mainly from a diet of fast food.

Students also frequented roadside snack stands, because their parents were too busy with work to prepare food. Unsanitary conditions found at these stalls as well as high-calorie food endangered student health.