Obesity, smoking timebombs in China

HONG KONG: Chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart and respiratory diseases are ticking timebombs in China, and Chinese must cut their intake o
f fatty foods and salt, stop smoking and start exercising, health experts said.

Increasingly affluent Chinese in urban and rural areas consumed between 25 and 100 percent more fat each day in 2002 compared with 1982, sharply raising the risk of heart disease and cancer, the experts wrote in The Lancet medical journal.

The report, by researchers in China and the United States, is part of a special series on China’s health reforms. While the country was plagued by infectious diseases before 1990, chronic illnesses are now its main health problem and they accounted for 74.1 percent of all deaths in 2005, up from 47.1 percent in 1973, the researchers wrote.

While these chronic illnesses have to do with people living longer, several high-risk factors are also involved. Apart from a fatty diet, many Chinese consume a relatively high 12-gram dosage of salt daily, which the paper said accounted for hypertension in some 177m Chinese adults.

Based on Chinese definitions, 22.8 percent of Chinese were overweight in 2002, up 39 percent from 1992. Some 7.1 percent in the population were obese in 2002.

The paper also drew attention to China’s smoking habit. “One in every three smokers in the world is a Chinese man … consumption of cigarettes increased to 2,022bn in 2006, 17.4 percent higher than in 2002,” they wrote.

The average Chinese male smoker smoked 15 cigarettes a day in 2002, up from 13 in 1984. The costs of China’s disease burden from smoking were likely to be vast, and China will suffer reduced productivity and more premature deaths, the researchers warned.

“Hypertension and tobacco can be targeted health priorities. Reduction of salt intake should become a national campaign,” wrote the team, led by Yang Gonghuan of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing.

In another paper, also in the Lancet series, a team led by Yuanli Liu of the Harvard School of Public Health said only 12 percent of hypertension patients in urban areas and seven percent in the countryside were covered by treatment.

While 45 and 50 percent of men in urban and rural areas were regular smokers in 2003, only 5-6 percent of them tried to quit. In an accompanying comment, Xiao Shuiyuan of China’s Central South University and Matthew Korman of Stanford University in the United States warned of dire consequences.

“If present smoking trends continue, 100 million Chinese men will die (of smoking-related causes) between 2000 and 2050, with many of their family members squandering life savings in desperate attempts at treatment,” the two scientists wrote.

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3 Responses to “Obesity, smoking timebombs in China”

  1. I can not belive the arrogance displayed by the FDA and govt officials when it comes to ecigaratte regulation.

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