msnbc.com news services
updated 11/6/2006 10:45:15 AM ET 2006-11-06T15:45:15

China has an obesity problem.

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Newly rich China, where the wealth gap is expanding year by year, has more than double as many obese people as it it has people living in abject poverty, Xinhua news agency said on Monday. The government figures about 60 million of its citizens are obese. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of France.

An official of China’s committee on food and nutrition blames rising affluence for an increasing number of Chinese eating less grains and vegetables and more fat and junk food. A sharp rise in the use of cars has also been cited for the bulging waistlines, where famine and chronic malnutrition caused the deaths of millions in the 1950s.

“While 24 million people in China live in abject poverty and suffer malnutrition, 60 million Chinese are obese,” Xinhua said, quoting Pan Beilei, deputy director with the State Food and Nutrition Consultant Committee.

“An increasing number of Chinese are eating more fat and junk food but less grains and vegetables, leading to a high number of cases of high blood pressure and diabetes,” Pan was quoted as saying.

Statistics show that about 160 million Chinese suffer from high blood pressure and 20 million have diabetes.

“The widening wealth gap is also to blame for regional diet difference,” Pan was quoted as saying. “Narrowing the regional income gap will help improve the diet of citizens in poverty-stricken areas and make them more healthy.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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