Obesity has become a major public health issue in China. Overweight and obesity have increased rapidly in the past four decades, and the latest national prevalence estimates for 2015-19, based on Chinese criteria, were 6·8% for overweight and 3·6% for obesity in children younger than 6 years, 11·1% for overweight and 7·9% for obesity in children and adolescents aged 6-17 years, and 34·3% for overweight and 16·4% for obesity in adults (≥18 years). Prevalence differed by sex, age group, and geographical location, but was substantial in all subpopulations. Strong evidence from prospective cohort studies has linked overweight and obesity to increased risks of major non-communicable diseases and premature mortality in Chinese populations. The growing burden of overweight and obesity could be driven by economic developments, sociocultural norms, and policies that have shaped individual-level risk factors for obesity through urbanisation, urban planning and built environments, and food systems and environments. Substantial changes in dietary patterns have occurred in China, with increased consumption of animal-source foods, refined grains, and highly processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods, while physical activity levels in all major domains have decreased with increasing sedentary behaviours. The effects of dietary factors and physical inactivity intersect with other individual-level risk factors such as genetic susceptibility, psychosocial factors, obesogens, and in-utero and early-life exposures. In view of the scarcity of research around the individual and collective roles of these upstream and downstream factors, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary studies are urgently needed to identify systemic approaches that target both the population-level determinants and individual-level risk factors for obesity in China.
Xiong-Fei Pan, Limin Wang, An Pan