A world less fit

Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, associate professor, nutrition

Shufa Du, PhD, research assistant professor, nutrition
Linda Adair, PhD, professor, nutrition

An international team of researchers, including Drs. AdairDu, Gordon-Larsen and Popkin from our School, have been following a cohort of more than 9,000 Chinese children and adults. What they’ve found should scare us into action:

  • 11% of Chinese children and 30% of Chinese adults are overweight.
  • As many as 27.7 million Chinese children and 334 million Chinese adults may be pre-diabetic or diabetic. The high prevalence in less urban areas and across all income levels suggests that cardiometabolic risk is pervasive across rural and urban China.

The data are from the abstract of a recent Obesity Reviews article. The human toll is of a cosmic scale, and the associated costs would strain the resources of any country, potentially to the breaking point. This is a global crisis that includes health, economic, security and other dimensions.

Shu Wen Ng, PhD, research assistant professor, nutrition
Barry Popkin, PhD, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor, nutrition

That bad news gets worse. In a forthcoming Obesity Reviews article, Ng and Popkin show that by the year 2020, the average American may expend as little energy as a person who sleeps 24 hours a day. What an appalling vision for our future. Kudos to Barry Popkin, Shu Wen Ng and their colleagues for shining a light on a global epidemic that is deadlier than many of the contagious diseases we fear. Read more.


The worldwide decrease in activity includes America. "Children and adults in the U.S. are increasingly spending more time in front of televisions and in other sedentary activities such as playing computer games, using computers and texting on cell phones.”

Many of our faculty members and students are studying obesity and developing interventions to prevent and treat it. As Dr. Dianne Ward and colleagues have shown, interventions must start at preschool or before. But making a difference will require massive social changes like what Michael Bloomberg has done in NYC. We’re also making changes at the School to encourage people to stand up and get more active. More about that soon.

Dianne Stanton Ward, EdD, professor, nutrition

Articles like these don’t just get me moving to the gym every morning. They motivate me to perform physical labor at least some part of every weekend. Last weekend, it was planting flowers in 100 degree heat and turning a reasonably sized swatch of crab grass in our front yard into dirt which we will cover with river rock. Fortunately, my husband Bernard usually is good-natured when I drag him out of the house to help me.There’s a lot of work to be done. Let’s get moving.


Happy Monday.


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