Fat: Western Diets to Contain?

Why are kids in rural China?

Scientists are blaming a lack of exercise and good old American food.

Researchers, in fact, are predicting that the enthusiasm to get a diet of soft beverages and junk food of China is setting the stage for increases in diabetes and cardiovascular disease there.

western diet increasing obesity

The study, “Trends in overweight and obesity among rural children and teens from 1985 to 2014 in Shandong, China,” followed nearly 28,000 children and teens.

It’s a trend that is being seen elsewhere in the world, too.

Concerns About Trend

Chinese doctors, led by Dr. Ying-Xiu Zhang, discovered that less than one percent of children and teens in their country were overweight in 1985 compared to 17 percent of girls and 9 percent of women in 2014.

The authors speculated that boys may be obese than women due to a societal preference for toddlers.

“China is a large agricultural country and our findings have enormous implications for the entire country,” said Zhang in a press release. “The rises in overweight and obesity coincide with increasing incomes in rural families and we expect this trend to continue in the forthcoming decades in Shandong province and other regions of China.”

Professor Joep Perk is that the cardiovascular prevention spokesperson in the Western Society of Cardiology. In a press release, he also called the results “extremely worrying.”

It’s the worst burst of childhood and teenage obesity that I have ever observed.

Joep Perk, European Society of Cardiology

“It’s the worst burst of childhood and teenage obesity that I have ever observed,” Perk said. “The study is large and well run, and cannot be dismissed. China is defined to get an escalation of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the prevalence of the Western lifestyle could cost lives.”

A kid obesity Perk’s concerns and specialist in the United States echoes Zhang.

Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is director of the UCSF Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health program.

“The obesity epidemic in China correlates with the advent of processed food and soft beverages,” Lustig said in a Healthline interview. “It’s the sugar. Added sugar in foods adds 7 to 8 percent weight gain in body mass indicator. But sugar is only 10 percent of weight gain. The top two resources are potato chips and french fries.”

Four Fatty Factors

Lustig has just spent two years studying sugar’s effects to the central nervous system and metabolism, and treating childhood obesity.

He’s author of the New York Times bestseller, “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease” (Plume 2013). He’s also the creator of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition.

China, India, and Pakistan have a 12 percent diabetes rate, but they are not fat, he explained. Americans are the most obese but have a diabetes rate of only 9 percent.

“When you stand on a scale that you quantify four unique aspects,” Lustig said. “Bone: longer is better. Muscle: more. Subcutaneous, or ‘big-butt’ fat: more is better. But visceral or abdominal fat is responsible for morbidity. More is worse.”

The problem isn’t just from China and the USA, Lustig stated. Obesity is growing globally in every country.

Sugar, that metabolizes differently and only from the liver, is causing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in China and India, Lustig stated.

“Sugar is a chronic, dose-dependent liver poison. Once there’s fat in your liver, then you’re ill,” he mentioned.

Changing Diets

The Chinese study revealed that the incidence of overweight and obesity in teenagers rose by 0.74 percent and 0.03 percent in 1985 to 16.35 percentage and 17.20 percent in 2014.

Obesity in women increased from 1.45 percent and 0.12 percent in 1985 to 13.91 percent and 9.11 percent in 2014.

“China has experienced rapid socioeconomic and nutritional changes from the previous 30 decades,” Zhang explained. “In China today, folks eat more and are less physically active than they were before. The traditional Chinese diet has changed toward one that is high in calories and fat and low in fiber.”

Resource allocation and preferences might be driving the outbreak.

Zhang and his team speculated that boys spend family resources, and might become more heavy than women because sons are preferred by families in rural China.

The 2005 National Youth Risk Behaviour Surveillance reported that 4 percent of girls and nearly 3 percent of women consumed soft drinks, whereas 12 percent of 4 percent of women and boys spent two or more hours each day playing computer games.

Perk reported that computer games are not the problem.

“The dilemma is that kids sit there with a 2-liter bottle of carbonated beverage. To burn off those calories they would have to walk 46 km, however they don’t,” he explained.

The analysis discovered that overweight and obesity are rising compared to teens 13 to 18. The scientists reasoned that particular finding could be driven by teenagers’ greater concern about look, which might inspire them to gain exercise.

“Rural areas of China are mostly ignored in strategies to reduce childhood obesity,” Zhang explained. “This is a wake-up call for policymakers that rural China shouldn’t be neglected in obesity interventions.”

Concentrate on Sugar

Lustig stated obesity is simply one of the very long list of disorders that are part of this “metabolic syndrome”–that includes diabetes, hypertension, lipid abnormalities, and cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty-liver disorder, polycystic ovarian disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.

Metabolic syndrome disorders consume 75 percent of the health expenses of America, ” he explained.

“We think of sugar as bad due to calories, but sugar isn’t exactly as with other calories,” Lustig said. “It’s especially detrimental and unrelated to calories and influence on weight gain.”

Forty percent of Americans don’t drink alcohol, he explained.

Everybody needed a bag of sugar at home. They used it for carbonated and also for java. But now our food has become contaminated with sugar.

Robert Lustig, University of California, San Francisco

And there wasn’t any food sector that is processed until 1965. It began, Lustig stated, throughout World War II and then TV dinners with SPAM.

“Many decades back, everybody needed a 5-pound bag of sugar at home. They used it for carbonated and also for java. But now our food has become contaminated with sugar. The U.S. food market has 56 names for sugar and it employs all of them to conceal the sugar in their meals.”

Since 2013, five papers are published — including three by Lustig — that show the critical role in metabolic disorder of sugar.

Governments and national agencies are beginning to react to the sugar problem.

Back in January 2016, the USDA issued new dietary guidelines. These include encouraging Americans to consume less than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugars.

The International Diabetes Federation lobbied leaders to set a sugar taxation when the G-20 nations met in November 2015. A sugar taxation was enacted by the United Kingdom .

Research of weight gains among children in rural China raises concerns about altering habits.