Obesity in children and adolescents in China is on the rise, and experts are blaming Western food habits.

The medical and health program of Shandong, China, funded an obesity study which appeared in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. The 29-year-study surveyed nearly 28,000 children and adolescents. According to the report released on Wednesday, less than 1% of children were obese in 1985 compared to 17% of boys and 9% of girls in 2014.

China is paying the price of adopting a western lifestyle with soaring childhood obesity, the report said.

China is paying the price of adopting a western lifestyle with soaring childhood obesity, the report said.

“This is extremely worrying,” said Prof Joep Perk, cardiovascular prevention spokesperson for the European Society of Cardiology.

“It is the worst explosion of childhood and adolescent obesity that I have ever seen. The study is large and well run, and cannot be ignored. China is set for an escalation of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the popularity of the western lifestyle will cost lives.” Perk said in the report.

The data for the study was obtained from six national surveys in schoolchildren carried out by the department of education in Shandong Province, between 1985 and 2014.

“China is a large agricultural country and our findings have huge implications for the entire nation,” said Dr Ying-Xiu Zhang, leader of the investigation team at the Shandong Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Shandong University Institute of Preventive Medicine, Jinan. “Today, people eat more and are less physically active than they were in the past. The traditional Chinese diet has shifted towards one that is high in fat and calories and low in fibre,” Zhang said.

Professor Perk pointed out that this alarming rise in childhood obesity calls for a catastrophe committee in China to put an end to this health concern. “They need to return to their former nutritional habits instead of eating junk food. Parents must take some responsibility and point their children in the direction of healthier choices,” Perk emphasized.

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