Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome Growing Problems in China

April 7, 2005

Madeline Vann
Phone: 504-247-1425

Around 18 million adults in China are obese, 137 million are overweight and 64 million have metabolic syndrome-a condition where a number of risk factors for heart disease are present, say Tulane University researchers.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Chinese adults, as it is for American adults. These statistics underscore the need for increased efforts to address obesity and heart disease risk, say researchers. The research is published in this week's issue of THE LANCET, a leading international medical journal.

"Economic development and consequential changes in lifestyle and diet might explain this high and increasing prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and overweight in China," says co-author Jiang He, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. "These findings indicate that metabolic syndrome and overweight are becoming major public health problems in China. The high prevalence of metabolic syndrome and overweight underscore the urgent need to develop comprehensive national strategies aimed at prevention and treatment, to reduce the increased societal burden of cardiovascular disease in China."

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a clustering of cardiovascular risk factors, including abdominal obesity, raised blood pressure and glucose concentration, and abnormal blood lipid levels. Metabolic syndrome and obesity are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

According to national data, approximately one in five adults in the United States has metabolic syndrome compared to 13.7 percent in China based on this analysis. He and colleagues invited around 19,000 randomly selected people aged 35-74 years from 20 urban and rural areas in China to take part in the InterASIA study. Around 16,000 people completed a survey on their health and received a clinical examination.

Men and women residents of northern China had higher blood pressure, bodyweight, body-mass index (BMI), waist circumference, cholesterol and blood glucose levels than their counterparts in southern China. Body-weight, BMI, waist circumference, cholesterol levels and blood glucose were substantially higher in urban than in rural areas.

The prevalence of overweight adults in China exceeds that of other Asian countries. Authors of the article include Jiang He, Kristi Reynolds, Paul K Whelton and Jing Chen of Tulane University; Dongfeng Gu, Xigui Duan and Xigui Wu of the Cardiovascular Institute and Fuwai Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing China; and Robert F Reynolds of Pfizer Inc.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000