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China is hopeful to avoid obesity epidemic if people are aware of the problem and take measures to prevent it now, said Dr. Gemma Gao Yang from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in an exclusive interview with Xinhua during the 11th International Congress on Obesity held in Stockholm on July 11-15.
"China began to see obesity problem in coastal and northern regions where economy develops rapidly since early 1990s, many high level income groups are already aware of this problem," Gao Yang said.
According to Body Mass Index from World Health Organization, China is expected to have about 300 million people who are overweight or obese, accounting to 23 percent of the 1.3 billion people.
Gao Yang said that compared with adult overweight, children's overweight problem is more worrisome.
"This has something to do with the Chinese culture because majority of children live with grandparents and even four grand parents take care of the child, so it is easy to be over-fed and stay indoors much longer time," Gao Yang explained.
"Grandparents also tend to satisfy the children's desire much easily by buying whatever the child wants, including junk food," she said.
On the other hand, due to influence from models, some young girls' malnutrition is another extreme when the girls don't eat enough food and became under weight.
She said the best way is to encourage standard and healthy weight which means that BMI ranges between 18 and 24. If it is over 24, the person is considered overweight and over 28, the person is obese.
Gao Yang said the Chinese government has paid attention to the problem and issued several documents including the Guidelines on Overweight Adults in 2003 and the Guideline on Overweight Children in 2008.
"The government should play the leading role while the whole society should cooperate in implementing policies according to the guidelines, if people can do so, it is hopeful for China to avoid the obese situation in western countries," said Gao.
Gao said China has already got many projects in cooperation with the World Health Organization, but more efforts are needed.
Fighting obesity and living a healthy lifestyle should be included in the government development plan.
On the other hand, Chinese food is still welcomed in China, fruits and vegetables are still cheaper than the western food in China, as long as people are aware of the problem and take proper measures, China could avoid the obesity epidemic, at least not as serious as that in the west.
"The key is to set up a mainstream healthy living style," Gao said.