Bad diets making residents fat

Research into city's health reveals the poor eating habits of children and adults who are not consuming enough fruit and vegetables.

More than 40 percent of Shanghai’s residents are overweight or obese, according to an intensive study into the city’s diet and health from 2012 to 2017.

A team of more than 500 professionals organized by local disease control and prevention center monitored 54 local neighborhoods and towns, 60 primary and middle schools, and 54 kindergartens over the period. They also conducted more than 15,000 interviews. 

The study found 44 percent of those interviewed were overweight or obese. Among those surveyed, 38 percent of their energy came from dietary fats compared to the 30 percent upper limit suggested by a national guideline.

Cereal consumption was in decline while people were not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

The researchers said more fruit, vegetables, cereals and beans should be incorporated into residents’ daily diets while the amount of meat should be reduced or a proportion of it replaced by seafood.

They also urged a reduction in sugary drinks, especially among young people. Almost 75 percent of local primary and middle school students had sugary drinks at least once a week and 37 percent said they drank them often. For high school students, that rose to 62 percent.

More than 20 percent of primary and middle school students said they had such drinks once or more a day, rising to 40 percent for high school students.

Parents and schools should encourage students to drink fewer sugary drinks, the researchers said, while schools should ban the sale of such drinks on campus and promote health education.

The results of the study also suggested that while the intake of oil and salt had dropped, it still exceeded recommended limits. An excess of some nutrients coexisted with a shortage of others — residents were taking too much sodium while lacking sufficient calcium and vitamins A, B1, B2 and C.

The daily average oil and salt intake of each person in the study was 36.4 grams and 7.5 grams, declining by 21 and 24 percent compared to a decade ago. But that was still higher than the national guideline of no more than 25 grams of oil and 6 grams of salt.

With more people eating out and a boom in food delivery services, the daily average sodium intake per person was still nearly 1.5 times higher than the guideline.

The researchers called on restaurants and food manufacturers to supply healthier food with less salt, oil and sugar. Residents were also urged to use less oil and salt at home.

Nearly 87 percent of residents were found to have an insufficient calcium intake. Results showed that each resident consumed about 97 milliliters of dairy products a day on average. For primary and middle school students it was 150 milliliters, still far below recommended levels.

The researchers found that the eating habits of middle-aged and elderly people were better than those of young people, while residents in the outer suburbs were found to be consuming the most sodium and fat.

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