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Diabetes Likely Double as More People Become Overweight

China News Digest, 3 June 2001

[CND, 06/03/01] A leading health official believes that the number of people with diabetes could more than double if preventive measures are not taken, Reuters reported on Saturday.

Professor Chen Chunming, of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, announced on Thursday that health analysts had carried out the largest and most exhaustive study about disease risk linked to fatness among Chinese people.

At the 11th European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, Professor Chen told more than 2,000 doctors, researchers, health officials and scientists from 24 countries that China is facing an emerging epidemic of obesity and the experts would recommend to Chinese government new classifications to measure the problem and guidelines to control it.

Chen said the cases of diabetes linked to fatness could soar from 36 million to more than 100 million in the next 15 years if nothing is done. Since fatness is also a risk factor for other diseases, cases of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure and certain cancers could also increase.

Five per cent of Chinese people are overweight while it is 10 to 20 per cent in Europe and 30 per cent in the United States. However, in some parts of the country, the figure is up to 30 per cent.

Chen said that the figure could be higher because the measurement is based on the Western body-weight standards which are not proportionate to the Chinese physique.

Chen said that from 1982 to 1992, the number of overweight people in China has almost doubled. The number would be growing very, very quickly in the future, he added.

When she showed me the data I have to say I've never seen such a rapid shift in the body weight of any population anywhere in the world, commented Professor Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce.

Chinese government has already launched a program to educate people about the problem. Being overweight has become a fashion to show the status of prosperity, good fortune and power in the country. Seventy clinics for the management of overweight have been opened.

Chen said that there would be a meeting in China next month, at which doctors, endocrinologists, heart specialists and public health experts will discuss the findings of the study. They expect to publish their results by the end of the year.

Tim Gill, Asia co-ordinator of the obesity taskforce, pointed out that the results of the research, which contains 14 sets of data based on tens of thousands of people, were significant.

The work that is happening in China is going to be of immense value for the rest of Asia and other countries that have a large Chinese diaspora, said Mr Gill, adding that it demonstrates key problems for developing countries. (ZHOU Haosheng)