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China's 'chubby' kids struggle to lose weight
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At 6:30 a.m., when most children are still sound asleep, a group of chubby faces shows up on time at the Beijing Children's Hospital.

This had been a common scene since the hospital offered consultations for overweight children in early July.

On a bench, 12-year-old Zhang Xiaoshuai sits quietly and waits for his turn. He has traveled all the way from southwest Guizhou Province with his mother.

"He already weighs 87 kg," said Zhang's 35-year-old mother, who looks tiny beside the boy. "He sleeps a lot, eats a lot, but does not do enough exercise."

"We failed to help him develop healthy living habits and now we can only pin our hopes on medical care and group exercises," the mother said, with a gloomy expression.

The doctor dealing with the obesity problems, Wu Yi, said there had been an increase in the number of consultations during the summer and most of his charges were adolescents.

"The youngest are only six or seven years old," Wu said. "The heaviest kid weighed more than 100 kg."

Recent surveys show more than 15 percent of Chinese boys and 10 percent of girls between six to 18 years old are overweight. The figures have been increasing rapidly during the past five years, especially in China's bigger cities.

Beijing resident Lin Daozhi lamented how it used to be praiseworthy for parents to bring up a "chubby baby", but now his eight-year-old granddaughter was unhappy because her body wouldn't fit beautiful dresses.

"Thirty years ago, whatever little nice food we had, we first gave to the kids," he said. "But now kids can have almost whatever they want."

Chen Ruimin, a leading pediatrician at the Fuzhou Children's Hospital in southeast Fujian Province, said imbalanced nutrition was the main reason for child obesity.

"Many parents indulge their kids with high-fat fast food, soft drinks and sweet food," she said. "Without physical exercise, these kids become fat easily."

Obesity does not just affect a child's appearance, but also his or her health as it raised risks of high blood pressure and diabetes, Chen said.

Like Zhang's mother, many parents are now pinning their hopes on medical advice and on group exercise.

In Shenyang, capital of northeastern Liaoning Province, more than 80 overweight kids are undergoing military training at a secluded school, according to plans tailored to their individual needs.

In Changsha, central Hunan Province, children attempt to sweat fat away taking part in various forms of military and gymnastics exercises.

In Shanghai, schools are making efforts to prevent the spread of obesity by changing students' lunch menus and placing more emphasis on physical exercise.

(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2009)

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