Beijing: A new study has highlighted rising obesity rates among children in rural China.
The study, published in the latest issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found children and adolescents in the countryside of Shandong province to be much fatter in 2014 than they were in 1985.
It was based on a survey tracking nearly 28,000 students from rural schools in Shandong, a predominantly agricultural area, over 29 years. The students were aged from seven to 18 when they were surveyed.
Some 17.2 percent of the boys surveyed in 2014 were obese, while the rate was only 0.03 percent in 1985, according to the thesis, reports Xinhua.
The obesity rate among girls was 9.11 percent in 2014, while in 1985 the percentage was 0.12 percent.
Meanwhile, the proportions of overweight boys and girls climbed to 16.35 percent and 13.91 percent respectively in 2014.
In 1985, the proportions were 0.74 percent and 1.45 percent, said Zhang Yingxiu, one of the co-authors of the thesis.
He said the increase was even more apparent among children aged from seven to 12.
The study used a cut-off of Body Mass Index (BMI) — the ratio of weight-to-height squared — to define overweight and obesity.
A BMI of between 24 and 27.9 was defined as overweight and a BMI at or above 28 was considered obese.
The authors attributed the growing obesity rate to the country’s social and economic development as well as lifestyle changes that had led to excessive energy intake and lack of physical exercise among youngsters.
“Compared with their parents’ generation, today’s rural children are better fed but spend far less time on physical exercises,” said Zhao Jinshan, co-author of the thesis and a nutritionist with the Shandong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
The phenomenon is typical among “left-behind children,” those who are left in the care of relatives by parents who are busy working in faraway cities.
Doctors warn that child obesity can lead to hypertension, diabetes and even cardiovascular diseases.