Once Healthy Chinese Now Fat

The Chinese used to eat a lot of vegetables and few animal products, but times have changed. Now the Chinese diet includes much more meat and dairy—contributing to China’s booming obesity. Reuters reports:
"What's happening in China should be seen as a marker for what is going to hit the rest of the developing world if we fail to act," said study author Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina.

"We need to find the right investments and regulations to encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, or we risk facing higher rates of death, disease, and disability and the related costs," he added.

Chinese people now derive a far larger proportion of energy from fat and animal-based foods, such as meat and eggs, compared with in the past, the study found.

"The classical Chinese diet -- rich in vegetables and carbohydrates with minimal animal-sourced food -- no longer exists," the study said.

"In 2006, fewer than one percent of all Chinese adults consumed a diet with less than 10 percent of energy derived from fat."
Scary, especially since this unhealthy diet shift is catching on. For example, the once healthy people of Crete have already endured the same fate as the Chinese. Their Mediterranean diet is gone and now they're fat. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
If we look at the diet they consumed back then, we note that Cretans ate mostly fruits, vegetables, beans and some fish. Saturated fat was less than 6 percent of their total fat intake. True, they ate lots of olive oil, but the rest of their diet was exceptionally healthy. They also worked hard in the fields, walking about nine miles a day, often pushing a plow or working other manual farm equipment.

Today the people of Crete are fat, just like us. They're still eating a lot of olive oil, but their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and beans is down. Meat, cheese, and fish are their new staples, and their physical activity level has plummeted. Today, heart disease has skyrocketed and more than half the population of both adults and children in Crete is overweight.1
For more on this, be sure to check out the adeptly named China Study. It makes it pretty clear. People eating a diet rich in animal foods and deficient in plant foods are at an increased risk of disease and premature death.
1. Kafatos, A., A. Diacatou, G. Voukiklaris, et al. 1997. Heart disease risk-factor status and dietary changes in the Cretan population over the past 30 years: the Seven Countries Study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 65 (6):1882-86.
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