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China on track to top the world in childhood obesity

China’s future is looking fatter, with the country on track to have the greatest number of overweight children aged five to 17.9 years by 2025, according to a report released by the World Obesity Federation.

If trends continued, the mainland was expected to have 48.5 million overweight children in 2025, more than the population of Spain, the study said.

That compared with a projected 17.3 million overweight children in India and 16.7 million in the United States.

The study said an estimated 1.5 million Chinese children would have impaired glucose tolerance while 4.6 million would have fatty liver disease, as well as other obesity-linked conditions like hypertension and diabetes by 2025.

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The federation study said that in all there would be 268 million overweight school-aged children worldwide by 2025, up from 223 million in 2013.

By 2025, up to 27.5 million children around the world would be affected by hypertension, 38 million would have fatty liver disease, 12.7 million would have impaired glucose tolerance and as many as four million would have type 2 diabetes, a disease that usually affects older age groups.

“Soft drink and fatty food consumption have increased worldwide and children are becoming more sedentary,” Tim Lobstein, the report’s author and the federation’s head of policy, said.

“Junk food advertising continues to influence food choices, and increasing numbers of families live on low incomes in urban environments – a recipe for weight gain.”

The report put China eighth on a list of 20 countries with the fastest increases in the prevalence of overweight children, with Vietnam, Azerbaijan and Serbia being the top three as of 2013.

Earlier this year, another study by researchers in Shandong found rapid increases in the prevalence of overweight and obese children and adolescents in the province’s rural areas between 1985 and 2014.

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That study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found the prevalence of overweight boys jumped from 0.74 per cent in 1985 to 16.35 per cent in 2014; and from 1.45 per cent to 13.91 per cent for girls.

The prevention of childhood obesity is a part of the China National Programme for Child Development (2011-2020) issued by the State Council in 2011.

The document states that the authorities should improve training in the area for health workers and offer better education to ­parents about eating a balanced diet.

The World Obesity Federation report was based on data prepared by the Global Burden of Disease collaborative project for 2000 and 2013, a survey done by the World Health Organisation to measure the impacts of various health problems.

The conclusions were made assuming no policy interventions have proven effective at changing existing trends.