In a nation where 30 percent of the total population in big cities is overweight, nearly one-third of children in poverty-stricken areas are malnourished.
According to survey results released recently, more than 29 percent of those under five years old in the poorest regions in Southwest China's Guizhou Province and neighboring Yunnan and Qinghai provinces gained weight slower than normal.
By contrast, only about 1 percent of their counterparts in urban areas are plagued by malnutrition.
"The problem often surfaces when mothers stop breastfeeding their babies," Han Junhua, a researcher with the Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety, said at the Symposium on Child Nutrition and Health.
She said that in rural areas, parents often depend on cheap syrup, malt, orange juice and even coke to feed their kids.
"As a result, toddlers in underdeveloped regions are also generally shorter than kids in cities," Han said.
But in the large and wealthier cities where milk, formula milk powder, yogurt and many other foodstuffs are available, severe obesity now affects some 16 percent to 20 percent of youngsters.
The Beijing-based Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety conducted a nutrition and health survey among more than 200,000 residents, including about 23,400 children aged five and below, across the country.
The investigation found the average birth weight of the selected babies topped 3,300 grams, nearing the level of developed countries, even though newborns in rural areas were less heavy than those in cities.
In addition, young people between three and 18 years old are on average three centimeters taller than a decade ago.
But the survey also found that 25 percent of children two years old and below in cities and 33 percent in rural areas suffer anaemia.
In addition, Vitamin A deficiency is plaguing 15 percent of the selected children, the survey showed.
(China Daily October 8, 2005)