If you asked most people, they would comment on how typically skinny Chinese (and other Asian) people are. When discussing weight and shape of the Chinese, it seems to be a relative thing: “Yes, So-and-so is chubbier but that’s because most Chinese are so thin!” And everyone else would invariably agree.
The increase in a sedantary lifestyle and fast food diets is slowly changing this image: obesity in China is on the rise. However for the moment, this image of skinnier Asian people (and therefore healthier Asian people) persists and therein lies the danger. Carrying extra weight around your abdominal area increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. So while Chinese people may weigh less overall than their western counterparts, research has shown that they tend to gain weight around the midsection, thus increasing their chances of illness. Obviously being overweight is the major factor, but I think more awareness should be raised among the population traditionally seen as healthy to ensure that 60kg person with a healthy BMI and pot belly knows the possible risks.
There are various reasons besides genetics that lead to weight gain around the torso. The important thing is for both professionals and patients to understand the risks of both weight and body shape. So next time, count your bingo wings as a blessing rather than a curse.
Image: Michelle Meiklejohn
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