Convergence of obesity and high glycemic diet on compounding diabetes and cardiovascular risks in modernizing China: an emerging public health dilemma

Global Health. 2008 Feb 26;4:4. doi: 10.1186/1744-8603-4-4.


As China is undergoing dramatic development, it is also experiencing major societal changes, including an emerging obesity epidemic, with the prevalence of overweight and obesity doubling in the past decade. However, the implications of a high glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) traditional Chinese diet are adversely changing in modern times, as a high-glycemic diet is becoming a greater contributor to diabetes and cardiovascular risks in a population with rising obesity and decreasing physical activity. Specifically, a high GI diet adversely impacts metabolism and appetite control regulation, and notably confers substantially greater risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers among overweight and obese individuals (P<0.05 for all); leading to an emerging vicious cycle of compounding adverse health risks. Notably, while no elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes were observed with higher GL intake among normal weight individuals, among overweight individuals, higher GL was strongly associated with higher risk of coronary heart disease (RR=2.00, 95%CI: 1.31-2.96), stroke (RR=2.13, 1.28-3.53), and type 2 diabetes (RR=1.52, 1.22-1.89 among Chinese). Additionally, the influx of Western-diets rich in saturated fats and high-glycemic sugar-sweetened beverages also threaten the health of the population. This review highlights the emerging adverse convergence of a high-glycemic Asian diet with a Chinese society experiencing an emerging obesity epidemic, and the important implications of these combined factors on compounding cardiometabolic risks. Potential policy directions in China are also discussed.