Obese Dragons And Other Stories

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year, the year of the dragon, an event celebrated by ethnic Chinese worldwide – so Happy New Year to all my Chinese readers!

As some readers may recall, last year I was in Beijing to speak on obesity and hypertension management, problems that most non-Chinese readers may not readily associate with China. No doubt, any Western visitor to China may find it hard to spot any Chinese obese men or women, at least by applying our Western definitions of ‘obesity’.

Unfortunately, obesity and related metabolic diseases are alive and kicking across East Asia – which makes the recent rather enthusiastic announcement of Weight Watcher’s interest in growing their Chinese presence understandable.

Thus, according to Weight Watcher’s CEO David Kirchhoff in an interview to the The Wall Street Journal,

“What you see in China is that overnight, there’s this huge middle class that’s emerged: People who have all the money they could need to buy whatever food they want to buy. There are cars all over the place. People are on the Internet, doing lots of things other than being outside. They’re literally eating so much food they don’t know what to do with it. On top of that, you have the one-child policy, you have parents and two sets of grandparents spoiling one kid. Put all those things together, and it’s not surprising that China has one of the fastest growth rates in obesity of any country around.”

So while festive occasions such as New Year celebrations should perhaps not be the time to brood about the potential adverse effects of the many less-than-healthy foods served at the traditional family reunions, the rise of obesity (and related disorders) in the Chinese community may well raise concerns over the coming year.

I, for one, am quite confident that my trip to China last year to discuss obesity, will certainly not have been my last.

Toronto, Ontario