Objectives: A longitudinal survey assessed the distribution of adult body weight among the Chinese population.
Methods: Data from the 1989 and 1991 China Health and Nutrition Survey were used to study changes in the proportions of adults aged 20-45 years who were classified as underweight, normal weight, overweight, and severely overweight.
Results: There was a slight decline in the proportion of men and women classified as underweight, but among lower-income persons an increase occurred. The proportion of adults with normal body weight decreased, and the proportions of those classified as overweight and severely overweight increased during the same period. The observed increases in proportions of adults classified as overweight and severely overweight were largely confined to the urban residents and to those in the middle- and high-income groups.
Conclusions: Results indicate increases in both obesity and undernutrition. Current efforts in China to develop a preventive health care policy emphasize the prevention of excess nutrient intakes and overnutrition and, hence, address the problem of the increase in obesity among well-to-do, mostly urban residents. However, the increase in undernutrition among low-income Chinese adults should not be overlooked and requires further research and serious policy consideration.