A team of American health experts invited to China to advise on obesity said Wednesday that parents shouldn't ban children from eating sweets but should instead strive for a balanced diet.
Sharing some surprising statistics, the experts tried to convey their concern that increased global obesity was becoming an irreversible trend. They urged Chinese parents to control children's diets in a wiser way.
"Parents should not banish sugar, ice cream and other sweets but should manage their children's meals," said Dr. John Foreyt, professor with the Medicine Department of Baylor College of Medicine based in Houston, Texas.
Every child had a sweet tooth, Foreyt said.
"Sweetness is children's innate preference and if parents ban such food, they will take more" when parents aren't around, said Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director of the Center for Obesity Research with the Seattle-based University of Washington.
At the invitation of a program co-sponsored by the Ministry of Health and the All-China Journalists' Association, the experts urged Chinese to make small lifestyle changes that could have a major health impact.
A medical experiment conducted in Finland from 2000 to 2006 found that losing about 5 percent of one's weight could reduce the risk of diabetes.
"Ten years ago, critics singled out fat as the cause of overweight and obesity. Now, they point to sugar as the primary suspect," said Foreyt. "However, there has been no scientific proof for a 'single culprit' theory.
"The only thing we need is a calorie equation that balances what comes into and goes out of our bodies," he added.
Foreyt, also director of Behavioral Medicine Research Center of his college, said there was no need to give up one's favorite foods, since every food and beverage, even sodas, could be part of a healthy diet.
A surge in obesity-related chronic diseases has exerted tremendous pressure on the health systems in both developing and developed countries.
Professor Li Keji of Peking University's School of Public Health said that historically, Chinese did not pay much attention to weight problems as the traditional diet was based on plant food and a limited appetite.
"The causes of obesity are complex and can vary from country to country for different communities, lifestyles and inheritance," Li said.
According to the Ministry of Health, nearly 60 percent of male residents in Beijing are overweight or obese.
"A balanced diet and a 60-minute walk every day could save us," Li said.
(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2009)