Objective: To examine the prevalence and risk factors of overweight and obesity in China.
Research methods and procedures: A cross-sectional survey was conducted in a nationally representative sample of 15,540 Chinese adults in 2000-2001. Body weight, height, and waist circumference were measured by trained observers. Overweight and obesity were defined according to the World Health Organization classification. Central obesity was defined according to guidelines of the International Diabetes Federation.
Results: Mean BMI and waist circumference were 23.1 kg/m2 and 79.6 cm, respectively, for men and 23.5 kg/m2 and 77.2 cm, respectively, for women. The prevalences of overweight and obesity were 24.1% and 2.8% in men and 26.1% and 5.0% in women, respectively. The prevalence of central obesity was 16.1% in men and 37.6% in women. The prevalences of overweight, obesity, and central obesity were higher among residents in northern China compared with their counterparts in southern China and among those in urban areas compared with those in rural areas. Lifestyle factors were the most important risk factors to explain the differences in overweight and central obesity between northern and southern residents. Among women, lifestyle and diet were the most important risk factors to explain the differences between urban and rural residents, whereas socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and diet were all important among men.
Discussion: Our study indicates that overweight and obesity have become important public health problems in China. Environmental risk factors may be the main reason for regional differences in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in China.