Obesity in China – A Very Real Threat


Obesity is an undeniable global threat – a threat not just to health and society, but to the global economy. Today, nearly 640 million people in the world are obese and according to research by the McKinsey Global institute (MGI), the total economic impact of this is around US$2 trillion per year or 2.8% of world GDP. (Please scroll below for the video)

Obesity is a global crisis, but a crisis that is also affecting China in a serious way. As of 2016, China has the largest obesity population in the world at nearly 90 million, including 43.2 million men and 46.4 million women.


The opening up of China has been one of the world’s great economic success stories.  No economy in history has developed so much, so fast. However, as China has developed and become more international, lifestyles have changed. One of the effects of a modern lifestyle has been an increase in consumption of high calorie foods and a sedentary lifestyle.

The rise of obesity is now a very real threat in China, particularly among the younger generation. Indeed, according to a report in 2013 by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, China saw the fourth-greatest increase in childhood obesity from 1980-2013 and it is estimated that 23% of Chinese boys under 20 are obese or overweight and 14% of Chinese girls under 20 are obese or overweight.

The same report observed that the proportion of obese boys in China was almost double the proportion of obese men. According to the report, 9.6% of young people are overweight and 6.4% are obese.





China is now home to the second largest population of obese people globally, with over 341,000,000 obese people in this country. Along with fast economic growth over the past three decades, the number of overweight or obese people has increased by 100% to 200% across different age groups. Other major Asian countries have also seen an increase of obesity in recent years. Research shows that almost half of Singaporean and Malaysian adult males are overweight or obese. The obesity rates in South Korea, Bhutan and Thailand are also above 30%.

Healthscope Asia spoke to two leading medical professionals in China and asked them about the current state of obesity in China, why the disease is on the rise and what can be done to combat the disease. The video is below.


Dr. Yan Gu – Professor, Chief Physician, Supervisor of doctoral candidates, Chief of General Surgery, Director of Surgery Teaching Practice  of Shanghai No. 9 People’s Hospital.

Dr. Peiying Wu – Director of Nutrition Society of Shanghai, Associate Chief Physician, Chief of Nutrition Department at Shanghai No.1 People’s Hospital.

Source: Cook Medical, healthscopeasia.com