I’ve been traveling to China on business for the past 12 years and every year when I return, it seems that the people have gotten both larger and taller. Anecdotally speaking, the common thinking was that this was a sign of China’s growing economy. Now, in the first comprehensive study of China’s growing obesity rate, the Chinese Ministry of Health has uncovered some astounding results.
New figures show that urban Chinese boys age 6 are 2.5 inches taller and 6.6 pounds heavier on average than Chinese city boys 30 years ago! In less than a generation, China has gone from an era of widespread famine and an underweight citizenship to an age of bountiful food and a burgeoning obesity problem. Even more astounding is the fact that much of this has occurred in the past ten years!
Bigger children are a source of pride and proof of prosperity for many Chinese. Many of this generation’s children had parents who grew up struggling to find a daily meal. Therefore, although the Chinese government plans to embark on an anti-obesity campaign, many Chinese parents still adhere to the old adage that, “a fat child is a healthy child.” Contrast this to America’s obsession with thinness and it makes an interesting comparison (as Chris Rock once said, “We got so much food in America, we’re allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain’t allergic to shit. You think anyone in Rwanda’s got a fuckin’ lactose intolerance?!”)
Experts at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention are clearly linking the growing childhood obesity rate to the increased prevalence of American-style fast food. Over the past 10 years, McDonalds and KFC have literally opened hundreds of outlets in China. Naturally, both chains state that they seek to promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle. However, I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that they are partly to blame. After all, look what happened in Okinawa!