Fat China!

By Razib Khan | March 2, 2011 8:56 pm

Paul French talks about his new book, Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation. And rest assured, this is one measure by which America is still #1 in relation to China….

MORE ABOUT: Fat, Obesity
  • Sandgroper

    One thing he didn’t mention – the first time I went to Shanghai in 1982, I saw very few motor vehicles, and private cars didn’t exist as such, but the roads were clogged with millions of bicycles. They weren’t nice light road racing bikes with aluminium or carbon fibre frames and 36 gears either, they were big steel heavy duty clunkers, built to last, take a lot of punishment and carry loads, not for speed.

    Now, the roads are choked with private cars, and you would have to be crazy to risk riding a bicycle on the road.

    That’s just a very visible example of course – with modernisation comes mechanisation.

  • Sandgroper

    BTW, on that clip he claims that Australia is now No.1.

    He’s got that wrong – that was a spurious claim in a paper by some grant-seeking Australian researchers.

    Not that Oz is far behind Mexico and the USA. Just not No. 1.

  • chris w


  • Stephen

    An intriguing but rather shallow piece along these lines was on NPR the other day. It noted that there are two kinds of women on the streets of Moscow: supermodels (slim), and babushkas (stout). The question was, why do the supermodels turn into babushka’s? The answer was, the low-quality, high-carb Russian diet. It quite ignored matters of class, ethnic stratification, and genetics. I need an executive summary of this clip to know if this discussion is similarly shallow, so I guess that’s an open question for now. In the U.S. at least there is strong socioeconomic structure to obesity. The genetics is only beginning to appear.

  • AG

    American is always the number 1 country in term of life quality (living space, meat consumption). The rest world would like to follow.

  • Sandgroper

    Australians build bigger houses and use more energy per capita than Americans. Whether this equates to quality of life is another question.

    Stephen, the clip has a lot of superficial generalisations which address only dietary changes. To say that cancer was not previously one of the top 10 killers, in a country where tobacco smoking has been so prevalent, is just nonsense. I know a lot of very slim Chinese men who suffer from Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, with family history, so it’s not like these are previously unknown afflictions – they were already quite common. French drops some stupid comments along the way – like how Hu Jintao’s diabetes was a ‘state secret’. What throw-away cheap journalistic pap.

    I was quietly amused that the interviewer had a pint of beer in front of him.

    But having said that, the observations on fatness-inducing dietary changes are reasonable at a coarse primary level. The relevant point that is made is that the Chinese health care system, which is already very lousy (which is one explanation for why Chinese personal savings rates are so high – if you get seriously sick in China, you better have some money saved), is going to come under pressure down the road from a different direction.

    What I never understand is how anyone can have any sensible discussion about diet and ‘lifestyle diseases’ without also discussing physical activity, when it is such an important part of the equation. The people who run ‘fat farms’ for Chinese kids get it.

  • Stephen

    @Sandgroper – Thanks for the mini-blog! Maybe it speaks to a voracious and ridiculous need for speed, but I find links to videos in blogs without other comment (or a “money quote”) discouraging because, say, 15 minutes is a lot of time just to find out if there’s good or personally useful content. While from a transcript, the eye can glean if there’s any meat there in a few moments.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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