Over 50 percent adults being overweight or obese in China; obesity brought a huge burden of disease and economy: experts
Published: Aug 01, 2023 04:10 PM Updated: Aug 01, 2023 04:09 PM
Half of China overweight Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Half of China overweight Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

The population of obese people in China is increasing, with over 50 percent of adults being overweight or obese, with the proportion of obese people rising even faster than the overweight population, experts said recently at the second China Obesity Conference (COC2023), according to media reports on Tuesday.

Zhang Zhongtao, deputy dean of Beijing Friendship Hospital affiliated to Capital Medical University pointed out that obesity has brought a huge burden of disease and economy globally and has become a major public health problem in China. It is estimated that by 2030, China's health expenditure related to overweight and obesity will account for about 22 percent of the total national medical expenditure.

COC2023, co-organized by the National Digestive Disease Clinical Medical Research Center and related academic organizations, was held in Beijing on Saturday. Based on the analysis of over 20,000 patients from more than 80 centers in more than 20 provinces and cities, the conference released a 5-year data report of weight loss and metabolic surgery for the first time.

"The number of patients in China undergoing weight loss and metabolic surgery reached the first 10,000 in three years from 2018 to 2021, and the second 10,000 took only one year from 2021 to 2022," Zhang said. There are two main challenges facing the development of weight loss and metabolic surgery in China, that is how to promote the expansion of high-quality medical resources and balanced regional development, and how to improve clinical specialty diagnosis and treatment capabilities and the safety level of medical quality, Zhang noted.

During the conference, Zhang appealed for increased attention from government departments, health administrative departments, doctors in relevant specialties, and obese patients to obesity and weight management. "We also hope to provide some common help and support for obese patients who need medical weight loss but have poor economic abilities through cooperation with public welfare charities," he said.

Experts said that as an independent chronic disease and one of the important causes of many other chronic diseases, obesity prevention and control is of great significance to the construction of a "Healthy China."

Zhang Peng, executive chairman of the conference and director of weight loss and metabolic surgery of Beijing Friendship Hospital, detailed that the geographical distribution of obesity in China is not balanced, showing a decreasing trend from north to south, and the number of obese people in the north is higher than that in the south.

Netizens said that most people in northern China prefer to eat flour based dishes, while people in southern China eat rice. Although they are all carbohydrates in their own right, eating flour-made dishes is more likely to lead to weight gain. In addition to eating habits, the climate will also affect the north because of the cold weather, as people are more willing to eat high-calorie food to resist the cold.

Zhang Peng believes that the establishment of a complete quality control system, through training, and the promotion of this system across the country can help second and third-tier cities and hospitals in remote areas with more professional needs to carry out weight loss surgery more healthily and standardized, so that more patients can truly benefit from this surgery.

However, other experts attending the conference also pointed out that there has been great progress in the development of weight loss drugs in recent years. Some drugs have not only successfully launched through early clinical research but have also conducted long-term cardiovascular protection research and safety research after listing and have seen good weight loss effects in clinical practice. How to scientifically use these drugs to achieve better glycemic outcomes is also worth further study, experts said, noting that more experts should participate in clinical research on obesity and translate existing clinical evidence into practice.

The GLP1RA injection, developed by a Shanghai-based biotech company, was approved as a treatment for type 2 diabetes in 2016, and is expected to be China's first new-generation weight loss drug.