Obesity in China common - around 18 million adults

Around 18 million adults in China are obese, 137 million are overweight, and 64 million have metabolic syndrome—a condition where a number of risk factors for heart disease are present, suggests a study published in this week’s issue of The Lancet.

The metabolic syndrome is characterised by a clustering of cardiovascular risk factors, including abdominal obesity, raised blood pressure and glucose concentration, and abnormal blood lipid levels. The metabolic syndrome and obesity are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is already the leading cause of death in China. Little information exists on the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in China.

Jiang He (Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, USA) and colleagues invited around 19 000 randomly selected people aged 35–74 years from 20 urban and rural areas in China to take part in the study. Around 16 000 people completed a survey on their health and a clinical examination. Increased blood pressure, bodyweight, body-mass index, waist circumference, cholesterol, and blood glucose concentrations were found among people from northern China than from the south of the country, and among urban residents compared with people living in rural areas.

Professor He comments: “Our results show a high prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and overweight in China. Economic development and consequential changes in lifestyle and diet might explain this high and increasing prevalence. These findings indicate that the metabolic syndrome and overweight are becoming major public health problems in China. The high prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and overweight underscore the urgent need to develop comprehensive national strategies aimed at the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome and overweight, to reduce the increased societal burden of cardiovascular disease in China.”

The metabolic syndrome is described in a Seminar in this week’s issue of The Lancet.

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