China has recorded very high economic growth in the past two decades and it is the fastest growing economy. This has increased the income levels all around. The days of abject poverty and shortages of essential articles are long forgotten.
There has been a dramatic improvement in the nutrition and health status in the country.
Consumption of all food items such as meat, poultry, eggs and other animal products has increased. Incidences of under-nutrition and deaths due to infectious diseases have come down drastically. It has made gains in reducing poverty and hunger.
At the same time there is a report from the Food and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agricultural Office of the United Nations, which has identified a new public health problem in China. This time it is due to over-nutrition and this has caused 23 percent of adult population in China to become overweight and diet related chronic diseases have become the main cause of death. Now the country is facing malnutrition on two fronts. Nearly 8 percent of pre-school children are underweight due to under-nutrition and at the same time 23 percent of adult population is overweight. Due to rapid increase in over-nutrition, the diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart diseases have become quite common.
This is mainly due to the changes in diet and increase in consumption of saturated fat, sugar, and refined foods in the last two decades. There has been substantial increase in energy availability and people have moved away from plant based diets. It is not just people living in urban areas who have shifted to animal based foods, it is reported that the intake of animal foods and oils has increased in rural areas too. The real prices of fish, pork and oil have fallen during 1990s.
This trend is expected to continue and along with decrease in physical activity, obesity and malnutrition in China will be a major health-related problem.
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