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Shanghai's Overweight Population Inches Closer To U.S. Levels: Report

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A growing supply of cheap food and disposable income has created an obesity problem among China's urban middle-class.

According to a recently published survey conducted by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of Medicine, and cited by ShanghaiDaily.com, approximately 13.3 percent of the 11,839 Chinese children surveyed in Shanghai fall within the classification of being overweight. Particularly troubling is the 6.5 percent obesity rate, which has increased 24.4 percent over the past decade.

In the U.S., for comparison's sake, roughly 18.1 percent and 19.6 percent of adolescents can be classified as obese, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Increased soft-drink consumption, late night snacking, computer usage and television viewing are all significant contributors to growing obesity, the report claims. Also found is that more Chinese newborns today are born heavy, defined as over 4.5 kilograms, than in the past, suggesting greater food consumption by the child bearing mothers.

Those driving the obesity levels to their new heights appear to be members of the emerging middle-class of the coastal, industrialized cities.

China's booming economy has grown by approximately 10 percent per quarter since January 2007. But that rate of growth might cool off, according to some forecasts. This week, it was reported that China's manufacturing sector had slowed due to rising energy costs and efforts to fight inflation.

Food costs are also skyrocketing in China's urban areas, rising by 11.2 percent over the last year and by 12.2 percent in rural areas. The U.S., by comparison, has only experienced an increase of food prices by an estimated 3.2 percent for urban consumers over that same period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Farmers, reports the Associated Press, are simply unable to meet the rising demand stemming from burgeoning coastal cities like Shanghai. The declining number of farm workers, who have flocked by the millions to the industrialized coast, has only added to those pressures.

And it isn't likely to stop there. In a recent Oxfam report, food prices were forecasted to increase globally between 120 percent and 180 percent by 2030.

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