Over 50% of adults in China are now overweight and 15% of the population is obese, an official report released on Wednesday has found.
The National Health Commission report found that more than half a billion Chinese adults are classified as overweight.
The figures have expanded significantly since 2002, when nearly 30% of adults were overweight.
The country’s rapid economic growth in recent decades has led to major changes to lifestyle, diet and exercise habits.
The report blamed decreasing levels of physical activity for the country’s expanding waistlines, with less than a quarter of the adult population exercising at least once a week.
Wang Dan, a nutritionist in the city of Harbin, told the AFP news agency that many adults in the country now “exercise too little, are under too much pressure, and have an unhealthy work schedule”.
A growing appetite for meat and a low consumption of fruit were also identified as factors behind the rise.
This does not bode well for the nation’s health as a higher body mass increases the risk for a number of diseases including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
In October, the Chinese government unveiled plans to tackle rising levels of obesity.
The issue of obesity has come under renewed focus during the pandemic as studies showed that overweight or obese individuals are more likely to suffer severe complications or death from Covid-19.
China is not the only country to have seen an increase in the number of overweight and obese people in recent years as nations exercise less and grow fonder of previously scarce Western fast food.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that levels of obesity across the world had tripled since 1975, including in low and middle-income countries.
Almost 40% of adults were overweight in 2016 and around 13% were obese, according to WHO’s own estimates.